Citizen Voices

I changed my hair, Hugh

Hugh Masikela looks at a fan right in the eye and only sees her hair. Photo: Sanele Ntshingana

Hugh Masekela looks at a fan right in the eye and only sees her hair.
Photo: Sanele Ntshingana

While at Rhodes University Dr Hugh Masekela had an interaction with Thandi Bombi whereby he refused to take pictures with her because of her weave. Below is her personal opinion on the events that transpired that day.

You may be on tour, living your life, continuing to inspire millions and making news headlines for being a legendary musician with controversial thoughts about hair; but I would like to let you know that your words were not wasted. Your will was done, and I, Thandi Bombi, have changed my hair.

The news reported what you said to me: “You’re lucky that you were sneaky enough to have him take a picture of you next to me, otherwise I would have refused. I don’t take pictures with girls who have your kind of hair.”

These reports; however, failed to mention that you told me that, if I had at least washed my hair you would have considered taking a picture with me. It was also omitted that later on that evening, you announced that you would hug me, but it made you very uncomfortable because of this hair that you didn’t like.

So the next morning, while you went on with your life I woke up, went straight to the hair salon and changed my hair. I was so embarrassed and ashamed after all those comments that I didn’t want anyone to recognize me as the girl that the great Hugh Masekela had called out.

An influential man indeed.

Now, as I think back to that moment, I wish you would have seen more than the hair on my head. I looked at you with eyes filled with admiration, my smile could not be contained and the excitement buzzed through me and left my hands shivering and my nerves shuddering at the mere thought of you.

I wish that you could have looked past yourself for a second and maybe you would have seen me, a fan, a follower, a young woman who aspires to one day have the same kind of influence that you have. I have now realised that it was not my moment and therefore, even if you looked at me for hours on end, it would be like staring into a mirror and seeing yourself, your image, your reputation, your influence, you…

It is for that reason that I would like to apologise for approaching you that day. In my naïve state I forgot that appearance is everything. The same way that a woman with a weave appears to be negligence of her African identity, you being seen in a photograph with her is a battle lost in preserving this African identity.

I apologise that I had not seen your interviews on hair before that day, that I had not prepared myself to be in your presence and made myself worthy. I apologise that as woman I can’t see past my own struggle to be the colonial subject with my straight hair (that obviously symbolises a type of whiteness in me) and therefore I cannot see the importance of preserving my African-ness.

My biggest apology is on behalf of all the women who waste endless amounts of money on weaves and hair extensions every day in an attempt to create a beauty that is not natural like yours. I have realised that we should rather spend this cash on keeping our natural looks (because dreadlocks, and Afros and cornrows are very cheap) and maybe save the rest, or even use it to buy your wonderful music.

In changing my hair I apologised for who I am and what I had chosen to represent me, so it is only fitting that I apologise for all of these other things to. I am writing this in the hopes that it reaches you, because I believe you deserve to know about your victory. You used my respect for you as a weapon to bully me into thinking your opinion matters. I have since realised that my opinion matters too and if you are going to say things like:

“If we were to start worrying about colonial things we would be walking around naked”,

then you either have to strip out of those fancy clothes that you are wearing or keep quiet and let the ladies with the fake silky, long hair wear it in peace. Even you don’t have the right to decide when it’s okay to throw away African Heritage.

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14 thoughts on “I changed my hair, Hugh

  1. This is a great read…a perfect an honest one too. I agree with what you have to say and also in as much as one can justify his words as coming from an old person, truth is…we all have the right to be ourselves and also by him saying so he is violating that and using his power in a wrong way. I was also discouraged of taking a pic with him as I had fake hair at the time of his visit. I just do NOT and will NEVER understand what he has to do with hair…hello, he doesn’t buy those weaves and all and that shouldn’t be his concern. Also by these weaves doesn’t he acknowledge that we are creating employment?

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    • I don’t think he was wrong by implying that he does not like weaves. You went to him (his space) for a picture, and he was defending his space. What I think was wrong of him was to make further offensive comment that your hair is clean. That really was non of his business.

      I, myself, don’t associate with people who are too in weaves, but I don’t invade their spaces and try to impose my beliefs, the best I could do is to keep a distance from them. Dreadlocks, Afros and any other natural (manipulated) hair are the best and complete my ideal woman.

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  2. Mxxxn where does he get off sounding off about her hair? He seriously needs the move to Kuviki land, is he for real? I bet if he could make that statement live his sales would drop

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  3. I loveee my weaves, but I also love my soft afro. I’ve had my natural hair for ages but now and again, here and there I keep weaving up. There is no big deal about it. The money I invest in weaves is not a waste because I would have used it in food (which is not as important to me as my hair anyway). Besides, my favorate music is international Gospel and RnB and I have all the tracks I love. Money or not, I would have had a weave or two 😉 on my natural hair. No harm! I didn’t see any problem with you hair either (in that picture)

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  4. I don’t think he was wrong by implying that he does not like weaves. You went to him (his space) for a picture, and he was defending his space. What I think was wrong of him was to make further offensive comment that your hair is clean. That really was non of his business.

    I, myself, don’t associate with people who are too in weaves, but I don’t invade their spaces and try to impose my beliefs, the best I could do is to keep a distance from them. Dreadlocks, Afros and any other natural (manipulated) hair are the best and complete my ideal woman.

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  5. Wow! Thandi you are an amazing young woman. An African woman who radiates beauty – in several hair styles 😉 I am so proud of your writing.

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  6. mmmm i honestly believe Ta Hugh has a right to decide who to take pics with. in EL i served his table pleasant granpa and he told my colleague the same, no pics with ya weave. Was she upset, no she laughed it off. Lets not take away peoples freedom of opinion expression in an aim to force us all into this forced tolerance bubble.

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  7. I personally think that the old man is out of the way… If he hates on people with weaves I too would expect him to wear the old clothes that people wore back in the day, I mean he wears expensive western clothes.. Bt has the nerve to talk about being fake. We won’t stop weaves just bcz of some old man ongayaz lento ayithethao..

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  8. We are women and we have choices. Good for you, you decided to have YOUR hair in a weave and unless they’re paying for it no one has a say..not even Hugh Masekela. I had a weave during graduation and I too experienced judgement from fellow students who thought that my not wearing my natural hair was a sign that I was in fact ashamed of my hair and so ashamed of my ‘African-ness’. I had never thought of it that way at all, I dont usually have my hair in weaves and not because I boycott them but because I always associated them with a level of grooming and maintenance that I would probably not be able to maintain. People’s questions and disappointment made me feel awkward and I thought about taking it off so as to avoid anymore judgement but I realized what that would mean to me. It would mean that they are right, that somehow, while I sat getting it stitched on at the hair salon, I betrayed my culture and left behind my ‘African-ness’. I cannot be responsible for other people’s perceptions of me. We live in a world where we have choices I decided to have a short manageable weave for my graduation just like I write this now with what might look the beginning stages of dreadlocks. I cannot wait for the day when who I am is not defined by my appearance, the day when we stop putting so much value into hair. I always say that if I had a smaller head I’d go bald…well that’s already so problematic because it shows that my attachment to my hair is solely based on my appearance, eish…but maybe it’s time?

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  9. Pingback: I changed my hair, Hugh « Memoirs Of the Contemporary

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