How do I even begin to tell you about the magic that happened the night of Thursday the 19th of March 2015 at Feminist Stokvel’s inaugural Hair Soiree?
Twelve sleeps ago, weeks & months of planning came to life as 7 amazing women & I introduced the world to the Feminist Stokvel by kicking off our inaugural event that will live in our hearts forever: our 1st of many Hair Soirees.
Left to right: Milli, Kavuli, me, Danni, Panashe, Lebo & Pontsho. Missing from this pic is Nova.
Pic credit: Malose Malahlela
But 1st, let’s take a selfie!
Let’s back track for just a moment… My interest in hair was born out a simple fact that I can remember even as a 4/5/6 year old growing up in Mitchells Plain in Cape Town: quite frankly, I was unhappy with mine. Now I’m not about to get into my hair story (I would write it a little differently today) but in the last few years since I wrote that I’ve realised fully that hair isn’t just hair as I once naively thought. Actually, deep down I didn’t really believe that but it was cleaner/neater to process than to have to engage with all of the messiness of the politics of hair that I lived every damn day. And that’s the beauty of the Feminist Stokvel’s Hair Soiree: we marry the practical how to stuff with the politics because they actually cannot be separated.
So what did you miss if you weren’t there? Well, a heck of a lot!
Lebo kicking off the night
Lebo was perfectly cast as our MC & time keeper & opened the floor for the night welcoming everyone and also setting some ground rules. A key one was that The Feminist Stokvel is a space for black women of all shades who have lived the reality of being the most oppressed. As such, men & White women in attendance were invited to listen & learn.
Danni introduced The Feminist Stokvel & spoke about how we started, what we stand for & what we want to do. We’re not just about hair & we’ll have a variety of events to look forward to this year like film screenings, debates & more. Hair was natural segway to start a conversation with Black women so it was a good starting point for us. Soon we’ll have Feminist Stokvel memberships that will give you discounts & 1st option to book at our events & access to a host of online content we’ve starting working to develop.
Panashe spoke with incredible passion of our belief in Biko’s definition of Blackness. That we’re Black, conscious & proud & that as the Feminist Stokvel we’re here for Black women.
Milli, who is making a documentary about hair shared some of her research & insights from the likes of Professor Nonhlanhla Khumalo who is the head of dermatology at Groote Schuur/UCT and one of only 3 Black female trichologists in the country (imagine!). There were some ideas that Milli shared that I hadn’t thought of before. Like the fact that Andre Walker (Oprah’s hair stylist)’s hair typing doesn’t work for SA & we in fact have 8 and not 4 hair types L (I can hear all my 4z girls rejoicing!). Also, the fact that our hair stands up because of our generally hot climate to protect our heads from the sun whereas say in Europe, White folks’ hair lays down at the back of their necks, down to their shoulders for the similarly because of their cool climate & to help keep them warm.
“Our hair is not a mistake ~ Milli on how she learned to love her hair.
In the background as we spoke through the night we projected dozens of pics of ourselves on the wall growing up with our hair weaved, braided, corn rowed, relaxed & big chopped – I loved seeing these shots & between us we really have done it all. Also, for another bit of fun when we each introduced ourselves we had to say what our favourite/go to product was (Milli took coconut oil so the rest of us were a bit um, stuck!).
With the scene set Kavuli & I got straight in to the practical hair care info. We 1st laid out what we believed are principles for healthy hair care on which our advice was centred e.g. looking at product ingredients & that hair handling is critical. For our 1st session we decided to stick to basics & talked:
shampooing (function, different types, frequency)
conditioning (fact: if you don’t have time to condition, you don’t have time to wash! We spoke about protein vs. moisture conditioners & simple things you can do at home to get the most out your conditioner)
moisturising (step away from the the hair food! PS I have a personal hair food story coming up on the blog soon)
We ran a Q&A throughout the night & I loved that the questions & comments just kept coming. We laughed till my belly hurt and there were quiet, sombre moments too like when we spoke about young, pre primary school girls getting relaxers and weaves & my heart just ached. We wrapped up at something to 11pm & honestly we could have gone on & on. In no way did this feel like work.
I fell into bed after 1am exhausted but so energised & excited by everything that happened. My eyes were heavy but I didn’t want the night to end. I lay in bed and trawled Twitter & Instagram & revelled in every post that affirmed this: The Feminst Stokvel has started a movement. A movement for Black women, by Black women & therein lies our magic.
To the 47 women (& 1 man) who spent the evening huddled with us in the basement of Bean Republic in Illovo, thank you. You could have spent your Randelas, energy & Thursday night so many other ways but thank you for spending it with us. As Lebo Mashile said, you are our love crowd.
I can’t but end with a couple of thank yous…
PS the next Hair Soiree is going to be on Saturday the 18th April (time tbc) & we’re talking hairlinology. You read right so don’t feel bad sending this onto your sister/friend/cousin/boss who needs an intervention! Please email to RSVP on firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be giving preference to those we had to turn away when we were full (if you mailed us) but there are definitely some space left.
Oooh & before I forget you can now keep up with The Feminist Stokvel on your platform of choice. We’re now on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram Tumblr & YouTube’s coming soon!
More than anything I cannot wait to do it… All. Over. Again.
Be kind to your hair!
PS tomorrow I’ll be sharing some of my products I passed around on the night (we each brought a few along) just as examples of what works for (for me) so I cannot possibly review everything on the blog so check back then…