I never realised how practical those words would become for my life until I started to explore the world beyond the safety of my University. Work spaces where the politics of what is considered respectable are carried out with almost total compliance without anyone mentioning a word, without anyone signing a single suggestion to law.
It was and is suffocating.
I must admit though, this moment revived memories of my childhood.
Being a child of the “colonies” our British style schools and accompanying rules really struggled to accommodate students who just didn’t quite fit the profile.
My hair was just a disaster unless kept short.
In fact, my Dad’s distate for men with anything like long hair rang in stark synchornisation with a reality and imagination that reinforced in my mind that the very hair that came out of my head was essentially..
To be managed.
In amidst this new pressure, I sat. Day after day.
In an otherwise tense social space.
The tensions around diverse workspaces in South Africa, I’m sure varied from place to place.
Ours was a space where one would rather die before addressing anything directly..
For fear of being labelled a “racist”
Or something similarly sinister.
While I noticed very clearly that the unwillingness to actually “say” anything disappeared.. people really found other more subtle ways of expressing their disapproval.
It was these very tensions among many, many other acts of aggression in and out of the city, that led me down a path to figure out this thing..
I began to feel caged, like I was no longer in control of anything.
What I could say.
What I looked like.
Where I could go.
So one day I simply said no!
Walked over to my favourite barber and crafted the Lopsided Afro.
It became very clear to me in many ways that the spaces I occupied on a daily basis were rejecting me. Attempting to either spit me out or silence me altogether to the point where I take up as little space as possible.
What I learned with my Lopsided Afro,
Was that it was possible for me to take control of my life. To decided how I look and take back the power I had rescinded to nameless faces and voices that cared nothing for me to begin with.
I began to learn to laugh at myself.
Watching their eyes skip over the asymmetry of the puff of curls on my head.
It became a way to have a conversation, a way to protest against a fear I had internally of being erased.
Slowly but surely I am beginning to appreciate the revolutionary meaning behind self love.
There is power in understanding that in order to achieve self determination, one must seize freedom.
My Lopsided Afro serves, for me, as a reminder of this message..
No one can make you comfortable in your body, you must take up ownership of your space.
I have come to understand that in some ways to pursue freedom is to persistently in protest. There will always be a fight that needs to be waged, but the dialogues that resolve those fights need not happen only through words.
The body, in so far as it is politicised, can itself carry with it a message of affirmation – of Self Determination.
Whether it’s with tatoos, Afros or textiles.
However one might choose.. really the choice is up to you.
Who knows what awaits us tomorrow.
Take a risk,
Give it a go
The Lobsided Afro.