Since that last post, my spirits are much higher, and I am definitely coming into my own here in Ghana. I am even picking up some of ONE of the many the local languages- Twi (pronounced chree) and I can now successfully say, “me pao cho”-I beg you/ please and “emboa me boa kasi”- don’t cheat me! And since I am considered an obruni bibini (a foreign black) these two phrases really come quite in handy! As well, I am becoming the queen of the Tro-Tro, and can navigate my way around town a lot easier now! Ain’t no stoppin’ this sistah!
Since April 1st, I have officially been out in the world for 8 months and my project is still going strong! Although my initial contact for Ghana did not end up being fruitful, Aunty Toks & Uncle Francis’s cousin, Vivian Atcho (or as I call her, Aunty Vivian) Actress and long time beautician has connected me with the FC Beauty College here in Accra. This is one of the top beauty colleges not just in Ghana, but in all of West Africa. There are students here that come from Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria, just to name a few.
This year I have really come to understand my project a lot better, and in each country I come to, I get to figure out how to best conduct my project in the country. After I left India, both South Africa and Ghana not only use Indian Hair, but lots of synthetic hair for extensions as well. I have come to discover, that in order to better understand the use of Indian hair extensions among Black women, I must first and foremost look at the use of hair extensions in general in order to better focus myself and project. In Ghana, I wanted to see how Indian hair, well really the use of extensions have helped reinforce the belief the long straight hair is the most desirable; so I thought what better place to start than at the source of where hairstyling information and knowledge is disseminated- the beauty school.
For the past 25 years FC Forever Claire Beauty College has been graduating students that are professionally trained and highly sought after by salons all over West Africa. There is the college for beauty, i.e., learning how to properly do facials, mani-pedis, waxing, false eyelashes, make-up artistry, etc… and there is the school for hairstyling. The hairstyling program is an 8 month program that can either be combined with the beauty program (a 13 month program) or done by itself. The hairdressing students learn everything about hair; from theory, to properly assessing a person’s hair type to creating a treatment program to help fix damaged hair. And of course there is the practical portion of their program. After the first 3 months the students move from the heavy theory to the practical portion of their course.
I have had the pleasure of auditing the practical class for the past 2 weeks. Each day the girls have so much energy, and are always so curious about who I am and what I’m doing with my pen, paper, and camera. Not only are they interested in the research I am doing on hair, but my personal life as well- in fact, I think they are more curious about that to be honest! I have been repeatedly asked why I am not married, what life is like in the states, and how long I have worn my hair natural.
Besides all of the questions, they are eager to teach me what they are learning during the practicals. Lets just say that maybe hairdressing is not the professions for me since I still struggle to do a single braid the correct way! LOL! Besides my less than amazing hairdressing skills, It has been awesome to be in a very female oriented and dominated environment. In fact, during my entire time at FC, I have only seen 2 male students!
There is definitely a great sense of camaraderie amongst all the ladies. Each time “we” (since I am always somehow plopped down in front on a mannequin head and instructed to participate in whatever practical they are working on for the day) are learning a new technique, they help each other to master it. When Salina was struggling with the “African Queen” style also known as the “Pick and Drop” Thomas came over and helped her figure out how to make the plait look more natural and “professional”. (The African Queen is a style which is cornrow style that you keep adding hair to as you continually pick and add in a new extension to the cornrow whilst dropping an old section in the extension pieces in the plait. When finished, the stylist has created the illusion of having a weave-on however there are cornrows in the front.)
I mean, don’t get me wrong, some days they girls can very very catty towards one another, and there are some rivalries amongst some of them, but in all, they really do work as a class team. Maybe it’s because they all know that at the end of their program, they will be some of the most sought after stylists in the industry, that can not only style their clients hair, but also care for it like their own. :)
Since my project this year has been focusing on the use of extensions among Black women, I was very lucky that the practicals I happened to participate in during my time at FC were all about the weave-on, as well as braided extensions! The extension section of the practical course was two weeks long, and just as they were about to go on Easter Vacation, we just began the section on hair coloring.
Being able to see how students are taught the “proper” techniques of adding in extensions, via weave on, bonding, or braided extensions, has definitely help me better decipher between stylists that have been professionally trained and those who were not. After my opportunity to participate in some of FC’s hair courses, I can definitely say that as clients, we do not know a lot about what is happening with our own hair, and even less knowledgeable about how to choose a hairstylists that actually knows how to care for our hair instead of just making it look pretty. Now I won’t call myself an expert, but I will say that I definitely am an advocate of proper trade training for hairstylists. Based on the many salons that I have visited, both in Ghana, and South Africa, the lack of proper knowledge about chemically relaxing, calls for stylists to be trade trained and certified, instead of learning the trade as just an apprentice. NOw I am not saying that apprentice programs are not valuable and do not teach people how to do hair, however, proper training is necessary, especially in a field where Afro textured, “Black” hair, has never received a second glance.
I think that many times we experience the hair woes that we do because we ourselves don’t know enough about our own hair, nor do the people we are entrusting our hair to.
I have definitely enjoyed chatting with the girls in the class about different hairstyles and techniques they have learned, and can say for certain that the hair business in Ghana has a great thing going with FC at the forefront of the hairstyling and beauty scene.