DSC02802.2I’m thrilled to be able to introduce you to my real-life friend today, Patrice Gopo.  Though we are both Americans, Patrice and I met in Cape Town, where she lived for two years.  Patrice has been a great encouragement to me, particularly in my own writing.  I’ve also relied heavily on her hair advice ever since my daughter was born.

Patrice graciously accepted my invitation to guest post here as part of 31 Days of Life in South Africa — a series in which every post has been written in five minutes flat.  Enjoy her five-minute reflection, and be sure to check out the links to other writing of hers at the end of the post!

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South Africa.

It’s the abundance of texture. Ripples across a scalp. Tight spirals sprouting from velvet, brown skin. Dense coils stretching out into regal, black crowns.

Each day I notice them. Black women wearing their hair without the burden of chemical straighteners, without the expectation of making already perfect strands become something else. It’s black women on trains, in cars. At Woolworths and Shoprite. Black women in tall buildings in the City Center. Black women sweeping someone else’s kitchen floor.

And for just a moment, I think I can pretend the feel of my natural spirals is not linked with being counter cultural or making a statement against skewed beauty standards. I can forget the way I wear my hair is connected to a long journey of embracing what God created. As I watch these countless women, I feel free to shed the complication and say that this is simply hair. That grows. Like the nails on my fingers and toes.

Perhaps this is just my imagination. Perhaps these styles—these ripples, coils, and spirals—hold the same heft and meaning here in South Africa as in my country. Maybe.

But still I like to think at least some of these women experience weightlessness where hair is just hair and nothing more. I like to think, at least for a moment, I step lightly too.

 

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Patrice Gopo Head ShotPatrice Gopo, the child of Jamaican immigrants, was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. After marrying her Zimbabwean sweetheart, she spent two years living in Cape Town, South Africa. In the midst of other writing projects, from time to time, Patrice enjoys exploring the subject of natural hair. You can read more of her pieces related to this topic here, here, here, and here. Patrice lives in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters.

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6 thoughts on “a little bit like me? {day 27 :: free}

  1. My late brother lived in South Africa (Pietermaritzburg, and later a rondavel in the Drakensberg) for many years, and we corresponded regularly.

    Nonetheless, I learned more about how South Africa ‘feels’ from Patrice Gopo’s post today. Thank you!

  2. My husband and I just returned from a trip to NYC and Boston, where natural hair is much more popular than here in Nebraska. It’s always a confidence booster for me to walk among the women there, who wear their coiled and curled and kinky hair with pride and so much creativity. I’ve been intrigued to see the mood shifting toward natural hair, with more and more people complimenting this beautiful styles. Even white people have stopped me on the street to tell me my hair is beautiful! I don’t say that as a slight, but rather as an affirmation of the strides we’ve made. There have been other seasons in my life where my natural hair felt like a problem other people felt compelled to “fix” for me. But, I do believe times have changed and, as more and more women with hair like mine make the decision to go natural, more and more people appreciate the beauty of God’s design. I’m also not saying natural hair is better than chemically straightened hair. Each woman makes the choice that is best for her, and we celebrate her beauty and the image of the Creator we find in her.

    • Thank you for stopping by and for commenting, Deidra! I always appreciate your wisdom and perspective .. I think you and my friend Patrice would get along very well .. she is a deep thinker, just like you. 🙂 Blessings on your week!

    • Hi Deidra-

      I think you are absolutely right that things are changing. I gathered a group of friends last week to discuss Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Americanah. The topic of natural hair features in the book. One friend who recently cut her hair and started wearing her natural texture commented that even in the work place expectations around black women and their hair are changing. I have been wearing my hair natural since 2002 and even though that isn’t such a long time, the vibe around natural hair feels so different today than it did then. Thanks so much for sharing your observations.

      Patrice

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