The other day, I stumbled upon a very interesting article on The Economist on how Nigeria fuels the global demand for human hair. According to the article, Nigeria shipped more than 3,600 tonnes of hair in 2018. A hair trader in Myanmar, the world’s fourth largest hair exporting country said he knows when the economy is bad because more women turn up at his shop to sell their tresses.
Anytime I read these articles or watch documentaries of how poor women sell their hair so that we can wear them in Nigeria, I will be honest it makes me feel really bad. On the other hand, it is an economic opportunity for these women. This world is unfair.
The simple reason why most people wear wigs in Nigeria is that it is very convenient. You put it on to work/school and when you get home you remove it. But why is our own hair not convenient? The truth is many of us were not taught to love our hair from the start. We always had to “make” our hair. As children we made our hair for special occasions like Christmas, we braided with extensions or put relaxers on our hair. Although the natural hair movement is thriving in Lagos, wigs are still what 90% of Nigerian women turn to, including those who are natural. It is just really convenient.
Nigerian institutions and private companies also frown at our natural hair. Those who wants to carry and style their natural hair, are discouraged from it. This is in addition to learning how to manage our type of hair in adulthood. In the end most people succumb to the pressure and just wear wigs or fix human hair. A friend recently went for a job interview with her natural hair in Lagos and the first thing they asked her was “is this is the hair she wants to carry to work?”
I am not preaching that we should all go natural and dump wigs and human hair, no, because I, too I have owned wigs in the past. I mean, I saved money month by month to buy a bundle. But I have been thinking, is it really the convenience of wigs that makes us spend so much money buying hair, or have we embodied European standards of beauty? Have we gotten so used to defining beauty only with long hair? Wig has even become a social status thing for us! Why do people say our natural hair is not professional? Why do we have to “fix” our hair for weddings and special occasions, what is wrong with our hair? I don’t have the answers dear readers. If you do, please leave a comment for us.