I’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!
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.
Patrice 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.