Many women look to Africa for inspiration when it comes to standards of beauty. And a few women on the continent are trying to keep it that way, doing their best to fight skin-bleaching and anything that discourages their sisters from wearing natural hairstyles.
That’s why Miriam Diaby founded Nappys di Babi, which has mushroomed into an international natural hair community based in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, with a website and Facebook page.
“When I started the group, I just started with three or five friends who were wearing their hair natural,” Diaby told Daisy Carrington of CNN. “We added another friend, and another, and in three months we were about 200. Today we are a group of 8,500.”
The group, whose name is derivative of the Ivory Coast’s capital, also assembled clips of happy-to-be-nappy women dancing to Pharrell’s Grammy Award-winning hit from Despicable Me 2.
Another woman, Bibi Gnagno, has gone into the business of natural hair, with a line of hair products, “hair coaching,” motivational speaking, a documentary and a blog called OMG I Love Your Hair.
“Several years ago, when I moved from West Africa, where I spent my formative years, to Oakland, Calif., I felt skinny, unattractive, nerdy; and I hated my hair,” Gnagno writes on her blog.
“I taught myself to nurture my hair to become the crowning glory that now attracts admiring looks and comments,” Gnagno adds. “Using the same energy, I started my own business, overcame a health challenge, and attracted women of like mind and heart as a support group.”
Gnagno is exploring culture and identity in her documentary, Is That (All) Your Hair? “The film explores the images and criticism around natural hair and what is considered acceptable for African women and their hair in Ivory Coast and in the diaspora,” she explains.
As one woman says in her documentary: “We don’t go natural; we return. Natural is where it began.”