By MAGNUS EZE
Nollywood star, Kate Henshaw, has vowed to join forces with Adanna Ewezor, frontline promoter of natural hair, to ensure that Nigerian women embrace ongoing campaign for return of the lost beauty and dignity of the African woman.
Already, more Nigerian ladies now carry natural hair styles, some of which are reminiscent of the ‘old school’ years of the 60s and the 70s. Nigerian celebrities have also joined the new trend.
Henshaw was among more than 400 ladies that converged on Abuja on June 16-17 to add voice to the campaign for the African woman to return to her roots by retaining her originality. The event was the maiden edition of African hair summit held at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, where summiteers resolved that there is no alternative to going natural, particularly in hairdo.
Henshaw, who volunteered to be an ambassador for the “go natural” advocacy, said the African woman is naturally beautiful and does not need make-up and fixing of foreign hair to look good.
The celebrity disclosed that she cut her hair and went full-blown natural more than five years ago, when she could no longer stand the pain and stress of the hair dryer, with the attendant health risks of using chemical components, including relaxer, conditioner and moisturiser.
“If I, five and half years ago, decided to go natural, you too can do it”, she told the participants, adding: “I swore, since then that relaxer would not touch these hairs again.”
The multiple-award winning actress said she cut her hairs on set at Enugu, pointing out that her friends who thought she would not carry natural hairs at that time, were shocked when she stormed the premiere of Funke Akindele’s film, ‘Jenifa’ in “my small hairs and heaven did not fall.
“African hair is the most beautiful hair. Let your take- away from here be that you are beautiful without those relaxers. Do not just carry another person’s hair that you do not even know where it is from, be yourself.”, she said.
Henshaw, however, warned that natural hair needs tender loving care as it is not done overnight.
On make-up, she urged ladies to slow down on the way they pad their faces with inorganic substances that do not allow the facial skin “breathe fresh air”, saying: “I sparingly make up. If I am not going out, say for an event; I won’t even make up.”
Artificial beauty kills
President of Hermon Development Foundation, Dr. Oluwakemi Osunderu, delivered a paper, highlighting the health implications of endocrine -disrupting chemicals on the human body.
Osunderu listed relaxers, packing gels, conditioners, nail polish, perfumes and many others as chemicals believed to be linked to reproductive issues and birth defects. He mentioned breast cancer, heart disease, cognitive disorders, premature puberty, altered immune functions, excessive sweating and body odour as some of the negative impacts of these substances on human body.
The natural therapist said that most of the relaxers are carcinogenic, even as she warned against wearing artificial nails for long because according to her, the nail needs oxygen (air).
Citing a recent study which showed that African-Americans spend $7-$9 billion annually on hair and beauty products, Osunderu called for moderation in using inorganic beauty products.
Her advice: “You do not need to be like another person in another clime, be original; be yourself. I am not asking that you stop using all these products, but let us use them with moderation; moderation is the keyword.”
An entrepreneur, Mrs Farida Yahya, Chief Executive Officer of Lumo Naturals, makers of natural hair products, could not agree less. She told Abuja Metro that her products contain 90-95 per cent local content with most of them having Shea Butter as their primary base. According to her, the conditioners and relaxers are made with black soap, palm kernel oil and Castor oil.
Yahya said nothing compares to natural beauty, adding: “You do not need to break the bank to be natural.”
Convener of the summit, Adanna Ewezor, said going natural would restore the self-worth of the African lady and conserve foreign exchange for Nigeria in this period of economic hardship, where efforts are being made to diversify the nation’s economy. He urged women to get creative with natural endowments that could enhance their beauty.
There was an exhibition of natural beauty products, including on-the-spot free hairdo for interested participants; versatile displays in long, thick hair twists, up-dos, straightened, and even in wash- and-go. It also featured hair strands ranging from the weird, large and medium to fine, including those reaching waist-length.
Highpoint of the event was the presentation of N25,000 prize to a female corps member by Henshaw, for refusing to be persuaded by her friends to bleach her skin because of her black complexion.
The gathering was told that the corps member did not only rebuff them, she also went on low cut, telling them instead, that she is black and proud.