While I enjoyed my time in Accra, especially at FC Beauty, hair, and hairstyles aren’t just in one place. I traveled to Cape Coast to get a look at the hairstyling there, and how it differs from the capitol. Besides hair, I also really wanted to see the Cape Coast Castle- on of the largest slave exporting castles on the western coast of Africa. Many people that have traveled to Ghana have said that you cannot leave the country without visiting. So with those two goals in mind, I took the 3 hour bus ride from Accra to Cape Coast, and stayed with my friend Blankson, also know as Obama’s Tour Guide. When Obama came to Ghana in 2009, Blankson was the one who showed him, Michelle, and their two daughters, along with a host of White House personnel around the Cape Coast Castle.
My trip to Cape Coast was amazing. The castle was so moving, the people laid back, and the food- much easier to digest! The highlight of the trip however was by far my day spent at Cool Jenny’s Beauty Parlor. Before I arrived in Cape Coast, Blankson had told me that the hairstyles in Cape Coast were very different from those done in Accra, and other parts of the country. As well, these hairstyles in cape Coast reflected royalty and one’s social status. While I, a newbie to the intricacies of the Cape Coast Hairstyles found it difficult to decipher between the different hairstyles, my day spent in the salon helped clear up a lot of my confusion over the cape’s hair, and the role it plays in a woman’s beauty. Besides, it also offered me a respite from the outside heat- though not by much!
Like other places in Ghana, the use of hair extensions in Cape Coast is extremely high among the women. However, here in CC (let’s just abbreviate it to CC, since typing the full name is a little tiresome, especially with my limited internet capacity) the majority of the hairstyles are weave-ons, wig caps, and cornrows. As well, now a small number are wearing their hair relaxed, and the majority of the school aged girls wear their hear cut short in a traditionally male crew cut. The styles for the school age girl seems to also be popular around other parts of the country like in Accra, and the Volta Region. Since Blankson knew that I was very interested in going to the salons and beauty supply shops to look and talk about the kind of hair used for extensions he pointed out the main hair thoroughfare and set me free for the day to do my project.
I started out at one of the larger hair salons in CC and spoke with the Madame (the owner) about the popularity of extensions and why so many Ghanian women are using them. She was not very happy with my visit and constant questions, so 5 minutes into our conversation she she asked, very rudely if I may add, if I was going to pay her for her answers, and why was I waisting both her time and mine with, “stupid research that isn’t worth any money”. Needless to say I quickly apologized for waisting her time and asking her so many questions, and then made it on down to road to a smaller yet much more accommodating place- Cool Jenny’s Beauty Parlor. There they were much nicer, and really interested in my project, and the places I had been. They were also extremely happy to have me interview them, film short videos, and take a multitude of pictures of them hard at work in the Salon.
The Madame, Jennifer, aka, Cool Jenny, and her three helpers, Hannah, Comfort, and Journey, who were dressed in magenta pink pencil skirts, and white button down shirts with matching magenta pink buttons, were working on a weave-on wig cap for the client who was in the chair. Besides my introductory questions about the salon, how long it had been there, the types of clients who regularly come, the different hair styles that are most popular, and information about themselves, my favorite question was about why Black women like weave on’s so much, especially in Ghana. All four, plus their client, had very similar responses; it’s convenient, professional, lasts a long time (so economical) and arguably more beautiful than our natural afro textured hair. During this year, I have sadly come to realize that the women in CC’s answers are not an anomaly. Women in South Africa, and other parts of Ghana I visited hold the same beliefs.
Why is it that now in 2012 we still believe that long straight hair is more beautiful and professional? Why do we prefer plastic hair to the real deal? Maybe in 5-7 years when the natural hair phenomenon that is sweeping the U.S. now makes it’s way to Africa, there will be a change in mentality and an even deeper love for our natural hair.
Besides the wig cap that they made for their client, 2 other women came in during the day I spent with them. Each of these clients also came to either hide or chemically change the structure of their natural hair. One came in for braids, and another, for a relaxer. Talking with the women there, I felt as if the ideas and opinions on Black hair are universal- it’s undesirable, and something to be hidden. However the strange part is that although we go through such lengths to change and hide our natural hair, the women I spoke with on this day, all agreed that they loved their natural hair, they just wished it wasn’t so coarse, nappy, and unmanageable. I guess Black women around the world all share in their love/hate relationship with their hair!
Besides the hairstyling, the atmosphere of Cool Jenny’s was like that of any Black hair salon I’ve ever been to. Hot-due to the blowdryer and the pressing comb/ Martell irons, the fruity smell of hairspray and burnt hair, television blaring with telenovelas, and full of talk about sex, men, relationships, tips on enhancing your figure, and tons and tons of gossip about what is happening around CC, not to mention lots of laughing! I felt like I was back home!
I guess it is true that there is a universal black hair salon vibe, and after being practically chased out of the first place I visited that day, Cool Jenny’s offered me a much needed safe haven full of hairspray, and great company.
So in honor of all my hairstylists out there, this post is for you. Ms. Katey, Stacey, Ms. Kim, and all the other Pasadena/ Altadena Salons- y’all make us look beautiful!