Culture:Globalisation and the African Woman’s Hair.

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Cultures may be constructed on a number of levels:in village or city locations,or across

family,clan,ethnic,national,religious and other social enclaves.The other day,I came across the 2011 June issue

of the New African,my favourite pan-African magazine.In Reflections of an Ordinary Woman,a regular column in

this remarkable pan-African publication by Akua Djanie,which by now you probably know inspired the title of this

blog was a piece titled Globalisation and Africa.Globalisation is the process of increasing interconnectedness

between societies such that events (political,economic and social) in one part of the world increasingly have

effects on people and societies in places far away.Anti-globalists however dismiss globalisation as just the

latest manifestation of Western imperialism (capitalism).That the forces/values being ‘globalized’  are

conveniently those those found in the Western world and that what is being celebrated in the name of

globalisation is the triumph of of a Western worldview at the expense of the worldviews of other cultures.Naturally,I’m told,the African woman’s hair doesn’t grow downwards,it grows upwards.

Here’s an abridged version of Akua Djanie‘s great piece:Globalisation and Africa.

Globalisation.What exactly does it mean?According to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary,globalisation is ”the fact that different cultures and economic systems around the world are becoming connected and similar to each other because of the influence of large multinational companies and of improved communication.”The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary,however,defines globalisation as ”when social and cultural influences,gradually become similar in all parts of the world.” Notice -”becoming connected and similar” and ”becoming similar”.I agree the world is becoming more connected.But similar?Umm,I don’t see it.What I see is the dumbing down and devaluing of other cultures,and the shunning of age-old cultural traditions that were passed on from generation to generation.Globalisation on the cultural level is not about the different cultures of the world becoming similar.It looks more like brainwashing for everybody to become the same.

I have no issue with Africans embracing other cultures and traditions and taking on board  what they find ”appealing or enriching”,so long as it does not devalue authentic African ways of life.Seriously,if Africans want to dance salsa all day,I have no problems with that.But when we start dancing salsa all day and refuse to see the beauty in African dance,that is where I have serious issues.

Chinese girls on holiday in Ghana deciding to braid their hair for a bit of fun can hardly be compared to what is going on in the minds of black women worldwide -the denial of their true self.Everywhere in the world,black women are wearing false hair as their daily look.Black women are not wearing false hair as a bit of fun now and again.They are weaving false hair over their natural hair as their natural identity.Think about it.Really.Stop for one moment and really think about it.Black women worldwide cornrow their  natural hair into a beautiful style,then with the aid of glue or a needle and thread,they add onto their natural hair the hair of a woman,dead or alive,from India,Brazil,Thailand and the like.Then and only then do they feel complete (well,some go as far as adding plastic nails and eyelashes!) Do you not find something wrong with this picture?Have you seen Chinese women en masse in China,or the UK or France or anywhere else in the world,rocking Afros,braids,locks,Nubian bumps,etc as their daily image of themselves?

Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.Notice the hair?

Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.Notice the hair?

They may do it for a bit of  fun whilst on holiday.You know,something different to talk about to their friends back home,but believe you me,I have yet to see the females of this race denying the way they were created by their god!Black women on the other hand will use the lame excuse of ”my hair is too hard” and ”I like to change my look” for rocking weaves.I have worn my ”hard” hair natural for over 20 years and believe me in all that time,I have found a variety of ways in which to wear it.

Ask any young child,black or white,to draw a picture of a black woman and her hair will be long,shiny and straight.Yet biologically and genetically,God did not create black women with this type of hair.So yes,there is globalisation and there is brainwashing.And it is especially scary when Africans do not see this.

New African reader’s view:”Wearing Brazilian hair is not an African phenomenon,it is a global one.Most people just like long hair,they appreciate how it makes them feel and on a personal level it contributes to their perception of beauty.”My point exactly.Africans,and the world at large have been so brainwashed they do not even realise it.People have been so ”globalised” they believe beauty means long straight hair.Yet if the world were truly global,people would be made to accept all forms of hair.Where do you see the image of African hair on the global playing field?

How many black women are confident enough to wear their natural hair to a job interview?How about the black man who chooses to wear dreadlocks?Is he not often labelled ”radical”,”trouble-maker”,”controversial”,’Afro-centric” or ”drug dealer”?! (unless of course he is an artiste or sportsman!)

I do stand-up comedy and my character mocks falseness by wearing a long shiny wig and acrylic nails.The irony is that people tell me I am beautiful with the wig.You see,they have been so brainwashed they equate beauty with long straight hair.I once watched a reality show in which a black female judge said to a contestant with natural hair,”when I look at you,I see a Nubian”.This got me asking myself,”so when she (the black judge) sees herself in the mirror,with her long weave and blue contact lenses,what does she see?”

When Africans gladly accept globalisation,it frightens me.For example,all across Africa,we have specific traditions by which we name our children.Until I lived in Ghana and became a mother,I really did not this.But now I know that the naming of an African child is determined by so many factors.Circumstances such as family names,royal background,whether you are born after the death of another child,etc,all play a part in determining what name to give to a new African baby.Now thanks to globalisation,we may well forget this and continue to think it is okay to name our children Britney,Courtney,Juanita,Craig,Kyle etc -names that have no traditional value but which we may be brainwashed to think sound better,prettier and sexier than our own African names.As an African and in the spirit of pan-Africanism,I can handle parents deciding to give their children names from other African countries,if that name aptly describes the circumstance of their birth.

Going back to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary definition of globalisation,I find it interesting that it talks about the ”influence of large multinational companies”. Who owns these multinational companies? Certainly not Africans.The owners of these multinationals companies will most likely force their beliefs,traditions,cultures,way of life etc,down other people’s throats.It becomes a game of our way or no way.You with us or against us (apologies to George W. Bush)..So you see,globalisation can be very dangerous to the African way of life.It is because of of globalisation that people in Africa eat more imported rice from America and Thailand than home-grown rice or even local (often healthier) dishes.It is because of globalisation that,worldwide,Africans who wear Western-style suits are considered more ”serious” than those in ”African clothes”. It is because of globalisation that the boys of Africa walk around with their jeans falling halfway off so we see their boxer shorts.

It is because of globalisation that whether I’m in Japan,Australia or Mozambique,the youth are all speaking with American accents and trying to be Jay-Z!Indeed,by the looks of things I would say globalisation is a great tool for brainwashing and a close friend of colonialism.But hey,these are just the reflections of an ordinary African woman.

Adapted from Globalisation and Africa,Reflections of an Ordinary Woman;New African.http://www.newafricanmagazine.com/

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8 responses »

  1. In all countries and cultures, Africa(n) included, there has always been a dominant culture, which majority of the people identify with and follow, for whatever reason. In this day and age, I don’t think we should assume that certain people are being “brainwashed” – it might be a matter of choice – seriously! The reason most Africans copy Western culture is because this has been the dominant culture for a long time – by the way, all so called “civilized” middle-class and wealth people worldwide aspire to and identify more with western lifestyle as a sign of having made it! Now that Africa is rising, maybe the tables will turn and the rest of the world will want to ape African culture! If they do, in our lifetime – long shot but not impossible- will you still call it brainwashing? I doubt it!

    Back to the issue of African women and fake hair. Many women all over the world wear fake hair extentions – African’s stand out because of skin tone and hear texiture. The many different styles illustrated and highlighted in the article just shows the level of creativity and should be applauded instead of derided!

  2. But if it’s really globalization,a matter of choice in some instances as you say and not ‘brainwash’,why are some values being conveniently espoused at the expense of others.Yes,Western culture has been the most dominant.What’s propagated this dominance?Hasn’t it been done under the guise of ‘globalization’.Not all Western cultures are bad,neither are all African cultures good.Those are just the reflections of an ordinary African woman shared by a self-confessed pan-Africanist after all huh? 🙂

  3. Globalization serves a lot of purposes chief among them trade aka make a profit. Culture, is usually a by-product not main driver of globalization and is embraced by those who want to follow the dominant culture for reasons ranging from survival, to preference, identity, etc

  4. I absolutely agree that culture isn’t the main driver of globalzation,in fact,Robert Gilpin defines globalization simply as the integration of the world economy.Just wanted to give the cultural perspective i.e the hegemony of western values.As regards trade though,hasn’t globalization seen the rise of global inequality?For instance,a 2009 World Bank Development Indicators report says that while the poorest 20 states in the world only managed a mere 20% increase in GDP per capita,the richest 20 states had their GDP per capita increase by 300% between early 60s & 2002.

  5. Agree that globalization has seen rise of global inequality. This should not come as a surprise because some of the the fundamental reasons in support of this phenomena was to have access to open markets to engage in economic activities at a profit.

    So, richer countries benefit more at expense of poorer ones since they are the one with the most ability to explore these expanded markets.

  6. I haven’t actually critically read through the entire article but the section i have gone through about the African woman’s hair…im so mad not because i value the so called imported hair but maybe its because of the bitter truth that the article highlights. I’m left to think..so hard.

  7. Pingback: Baffour:Is There Modernity Without Westernisation? | Reflections of a pan-Africanist

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