Hi! I’m a Kink and my hair story goes back…way back… to the days of hot combs burning your ears, to sitting with your face smothered in between a lady’s thighs whist sitting on an old wooden Coca-Cola crate and only paying 5bob for the afternoons nasal troubles. When going to Kenyatta Market and spending your whole day getting braids for the holidays was the norm. Eating super oily fries and tip toeing over pee and solid waste when you used the public toilets. My hair was so much and so dense that once it took from 7am-10pm to get my hair done.

In those days, my hair grew all the way down my back but it was more of a burden than the joy it is now. I loved chewing gum, to the chagrin of my Mother, and one day, before a family function, I went to bed chewing gum…only to wake up in the morning to find the pillow stuck to my head! Mum found me in tears, having removed the pillow but left with the pillowcase still stuck to my head. She nonchalantly shaved one side and styled it (see pic). It was the first time I felt loss…a great loss and that’s when I realised I loved my hair and I never wanted to lose it. EVER!

Wambui's Side Swept look from the 80s

Wambui JL’s Side Swept look from the 80s

Enter secondary school; I had successfully been taken through the right of passage of having my hair relaxed in form one. Now it was third term, 3rd form, and I was looking forward to attending a Funkie a.k.a School Function where there would be 4th formers from our brother school. Yum yum, fun times, right? Wrong! My hair started shedding like two weeks before… all the perm fell off! The more I smothered it with Luster’s Pink Lotion, the more the hair stuck to my afro comb. By the day of the function all that was left was a few strands of permed hair and a whole load of kinky growth beneath – I felt like my heart had been ripped from me.  I attended the function with my head down – I hated relaxed hair.

Wambui JLs as the dreadlock Maasai look in Campus

Wambui JL as the dreadlocked Maasai in Campus

Since I was a pre-teen, I desired three things: To pierce my navel & nose, to get tattoos and to have dreadlocks – inspired by Maxi Priest & Lauryn Hill. So it’s 2001 and I embarked on my dreadlock journey. However, back in those days (yes I know sounds like 1800s), everyone looked down on dreads in Kenya – it was a sign of rebellion, of Mungiki (outlawed sect) and so many other cliché bad things; but to me it was the only thing that made sense for my super kinky hair. Then, there were no lock gels, creams, waxes or pomades as there are now – it was good old Coca Cola/Fanta, OMO and Molasses (the kind that cows lick for their sugar high). I can’t remember how many soda washes and other nonsensical concoctions I went through before my hair locked. In the process, I came across a man called Ben, who, as far as I can remember, was the first official Loctician in Nairobi. He & I managed my tresses for the next seven years. I remember the day I decided to cut them, he refused and said I was essentially ending our relationship; he wasn’t happy with the breakup. I told him it was either him or some random guy who’d get to do it. Begrudgingly, he cut my locs off, packed them into a plastic bag and honestly…that’s the last time I saw Ben. It was my first hair breakup!

It’s my late 20s, have a TWA and a fresh start ahead of me. What was in store for me no one knew but it felt sooooooooooo exceptionally good to jump into the shower and wash from curly head to wiggly toe. I felt CLEAN. EVERY. DAY. Best of all (looking back) I had no regime… none! I washed my hair with sunlight soap, air-dried and honestly I can’t remember applying anything at all. That’s as lazy a natural as it gets…and guess what? My hair thrived! It sprouted like weeds. I never put even one accessory on it, I experimented with the rough edgy look, different colours and I L.O.V.E.D. it. I loved all the compliments, all the disapproval (how will you get a husband?) and, most of all, that people just let me be. I learned to love myself in my own skin. I was carefree, young and happy.

Incidentally, despite all the naysayers I did get me a husband… he loved my hair enough to ask me to not change it up for the wedding day. He’d gotten used to the edgy look and his greatest fear was for me to walk down the aisle unrecognisable in (God forbid) a weave!!! I agreed and loved him even more for doing me that favour. I then embarked on finding a way to keep my hair looking yummy for the wedding but keeping the rough look. It is then that I found myself at the Revlon shop at the Revlon Plaza in town, and I met Yves, who taught me to love my natural hair and how to look after it. He also coloured my hair bright red without damaging the hair’s essence and bam! I was ready for my wedding day. I woke up, showered from head to toe, applied a cream mix that Yves recommended and I was ready for my special day.

Wambui JL as a Red Haired Bride

Wambui JL as a Red Haired Bride

So now there I was married and living in a foreign city, which had humidity from here to the moon and back…welcome to Lagos, Nigeria. I had recently relaxed & bobbed my hair (and got that wet cat look back) for unknown reasons, but the hidden blessing was that I couldn’t maintain a curl in that humidity. Off with my hair once again, grew a TWA once again and started a new crop of dreadlocks. Fast forward, two years, one pregnancy later…I join Tricia’s Naturals and the rest, as they say, is history. I got on board, had a serious case of ‘Fro Envy…and now it’s been nearly a year since my hubby BC’d my locks in our living room. It’s been an Alice in Wonderland type adventure. It’s been a new way of relating with old friends, I’ve made new friends, learned new lingo new and gotten a whole new natural, healthy outlook to life.

Wambui JL ready for her first Nigerian Wedding in Lagos

Wambui JL ready for her first Nigerian Wedding in Lagos

That being said, you’d think I have a complex hair regime – honestly, no, I don’t.. or rather I don’t intend to. If anything, over the years, I experiment more with my hair than the technique of keeping it going. As we speak, I’m still experimenting, but I’ve come to learn what works for my hair. I’ve just quit doing a henna gloss and my hair doesn’t seem to be suffering. I am into a new homemade mix of Shea Butter, Glycerin and Castor Oil, which I layer on after I’ve spritz’d with my mix of water and Olive Leave in Conditioner. Another part of Holy Grail is Oil Rinsing… usually I give any new thing 3 months to get approved, but so far I give it a thumbs up right here right now. One test run with Avocado oil has my hair feeling all silky, soft and hydrated.

Since the begin of the year, I’ve alternated between a month of PS and a month of free range hair; and during this latest period of free range, I’ve reacquainted myself with my combs, brushes and stretching techniques. No more finger detangling, no more shying away from giving my hair a good brush before bedtime (considering how I looked the whole world through for my Denman D31, it’s only fair that I should use it, no?). The verdict? I love how my hair looks and feels as there is something to be said for having well brushed, non-curly hair… it feels like that’s how my hair was meant to be all along – I’ve found my happy hair.

Wambui JL's Baby Dreads: Image Credit David Kiania

Wambui JL’s Baby Dreads: Image Credit David Kiania

The only thing left in this my hair journey is to be a shine head and perhaps getting a tattoo done at the back of my head; but no rush… I’ll give that a good thought once my hair flows down to the tippy top of my bum. Between now and then is to enjoy the ever-exciting learning curve that my hair brings me.

This article was first published on 3rd October 2013 as a guest writer contribution for www.mybigfatafro.blogspot.com

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4 Responses

  1. Bee says:

    So, so well written & the photos speak to your incredible journey!
    Very inspiring for anyone looking for their ‘happy hair’.

  2. Sidy says:

    Very amazing journey at least was there to see some of it. My inspiration to my natural hair journey even taking time to do my BC (thanks alot) And was the best decision ever!!! Looking forward to this new chapter all the best.
    From your biggest fan!!