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There is a Kiswahili phrase that goes “intelligence/the mind is like hair, everyone has their own’. Following that logic, how Kenyan women relate to their hair is unique to the individual yet there remains collective and shared experiences. The questions that I raise throughout the paper explore: 1) how images and narratives of hair throughout Kenyan history have influenced the way women today understand how they interact with their hair, 2) the ways Kenyan women are taught about hair grooming and the journey of learning to care for their hair, and 3) Kenyan women’s understanding of their hair and how it relates to ideas of beauty, presentability, and naturalness. Whether a person's hair is worn in its natural state, chemically or temporarily straightened, loc’ed, or in a protective style, carries implications for how they may be read or treated by others depending on the setting. This paper also examines how hair carries meaning, messages, and simultaneously is a site where meaning is construed. By utilising an autoethnographic approach and drawing from various archival resources, I weave my experiences with that of the various interlocutors I interviewed to present an exploration of the continuing politics of hair within Kenya and how it affects Black women.
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Onyango, Sasha D., "“Nappy Hair, Don’t Care”: Storytelling Through Strands" (2022). Senior Projects Spring 2022. 272.
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