Hear My True Story

"Afro-textured Hair" It's Never "Just Hair"

January 18, 2022 Otako Season 1 Episode 17
Hear My True Story
"Afro-textured Hair" It's Never "Just Hair"
Show Notes Transcript

"Afro-textured Hair" It's Never "Just Hair"

In this episode, Carol Kiwanuka shares her personal experience with Afro hair as an African woman living in Germany. 
The moment a non-African woman touches her hair on the streets of Germany in Stuttgart without her consent. And she asks her many questions like: How do you wear it? How do you do it?

She was surprised because she had never experienced anything like that, but she took her hair away from the non-African stranger. 

On the Hear My True Story Podcast, we tell our own True Stories through storytelling, spoken word, comedy, music, hosted interviews, and conversations based on real experiences. You don't have to be a storyteller or writer because, "Life writes the best stories!"Support  Donations <

Thank you for listening to our podcast. Music by Edrine Matovu, hosted and produced by Otako. Subscribe to our podcast for more stories and  you can also visit us on our website: https://www.hearmytruestory.com/  for more stories.  Email Address: hear@hearmytruestory.com

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Carol  0:00  
Hello, my name is Carol Kiwanuka. I live in Stuttgart German. I am doing an Ausbildung. What is an ausibildung? it is a vocational training. I'm doing a vocational training with children in kindergarten in after school care with very small, small children. Yeah. And I'm happy to be hosted on a podcast.

Otako  0:25  
Yeah. Thank you so much carol Kiwanuka. And we are happy today to talk with Carol our. Guest.

Carol  0:32  
Thank you so much.

Otako  0:34  
So I would like to have a conversation with you about so many other things as you told me what we could  talk about. So let me hear your true story.

Carol  0:45  
Yeah, so my friend, you know, I live in Germany right now. And I'm studying doing an Ausbildung. And during this time, you face different challenges, different people, you meet different types of people and different kinds of people. Yeah, so one time, I was with my friend after class, standing on the road I was had spent some days without seeing him. And he was Oh, hi, Carol. How are you doing? How is everything? I'm there explaining myself asking. Then a woman. I don't know her. I don't I've never seen her. Then she comes. And she touches my hair.  She's like, Oh, my goodness. This hair. How do you carry it? How do you make it? I was surprised because I had never had that before. She's German. She's asking me in German. And I was okay. I started catching my hair pulling it away from him telling her Yeah, I can carry it. It is not a problem. I had this long purple hair. And she's I think she was very surprised seeing . Like, a lot of hair on my small head, small face. And yeah, so she started asking me. And then after that, I started having the same kinds of problems, same things facing the same things over and over and over. And I had never faced that when I was in Uganda. No one has ever touched my head and asking me wow, this is here or these? I've never had that. So I was really surprised to have this here in Germany. Yeah. 

Otako  2:22  
So um, so this brings the same question. So the thing of a hair here in German. I mean, maybe in Europe, maybe someone says you have different kinds of hair. I think someone touching your hair  is being polite. Someone should maybe ask you. Yeah,

Carol  2:45  
I would feel better if someone asks me that. Can I touch your hair? I would not refuse. Yeah, I don't touch their hair. I think I don't have someone that can I touch your hair, but I think I'm not that bad. I would let them Yeah, touch my hair if you want because I have beautiful hair.

Otako  3:01  
Ah, your hair is beautiful. That's true.

Carol  3:06  
Thank you. Yeah. So I would let them touch my hair. But with asking of course. Yeah.

Otako  3:15  
This is a common question with people people ask themselves most times when if someone should ask them, or they should not ask them but to me because I've dreads and the experiences that sometimes someone asked you, is that really your hair? And I'm like, yeah, why not? That's real my dreads. That's really my hair. But you asked me. Yeah, and then you see someone bringing their hands and like, no, please don't touch. I always tell them. Don't touch!

Carol  3:46  
touch. That is true. You reminded me. One day I was in class, I had combed my hair, natural hair, no braids, no nothing. And I go in class. Very happy. Very beautiful. I made up putting on nice clothes. I was really feeling powerful. So I enter class. Everyone was happy. Oh, Carol, I had never done that. Wow, your hair. I looked like sun shine. Maybe I don't know. And then they started asking me is that your real hair? I'm like, Yes. This is my real hair. Then one girl she comes from Georgia.  or Georgia. She's, she's like, No, that is not your real hair. I'm like, what? This is my real hair. She's like, No, it is not your real hair. I'm like, Are you my mother? She go she's like, she kept quiet and she did not ask me that thing again. So the next day, she was curious. She wanted to attach it to prove if it is like, Dude, this is my hair. Yeah, do you want to touch the edges like because she started coming closer to me like showing me these are these eyes I want to touch I want to touch on like, yeah, touch it. So she touched it as you're like yeah, this is your hair. You know I for me, I feel like Hair is something that that is very personal. It's like any other part of the body.

Otako  5:05  
So you don't have to just bring your hands and start touching it. And it is a clear point.

Carol  5:10  
If I tell you it is my hair, it is my hair. It is my natural hair. Don't ask more questions. Why do you ask if it is really my hair? Why

Otako  5:20  
did you ask her? Did she give you an answer? I wish I asked her. Do you think there are some reasons why people keep asking for an African woman? If that's your real hair?

Carol  5:32  
Yeah, I think so. Because I think that in their culture or in their regions, they have not seen that. And with us, they don't know our culture. And they do not know what is real and what is not trail. So they get confused. Because, for me, this is my real hair. When I comb my hair, it is my hair. But there are some people who have less hair on their heads. And they put wigs, which looks like my hair. So for them, it is hard when they find someone who has the same kind of hair, which looks like man and me who has done real hair, then it will be hard for them to tell which is real and which is not real. Yeah. But I think asking sometimes asking is rude. But also sometimes asking is good. And it is also how you ask, ask don't be like if someone gives you an answer. That is their answer. Don't try to put your answer there. Because you wanted to know when you asked, you know?

Otako  6:27  
Yeah. So have you have experienced when someone defines you because of your hair, for example, for me, I experienced it both in Uganda. And here in Germany. For example, in Uganda because of dreads. People think I am a drug addict, I am not responsible. I am someone who has failed in life dreads in Uganda defined with all bad stereotypes.

Unknown Speaker  6:59  
Yes, I have also faced that, like that way where people judge me because of my hair. Because, for example, I will also give an example when I was in Uganda, people, small and slim, people think that the hair was drinking Me, I don't know how to explain that. But they said that all the nutrients that are supposed to make me fat, they're going in my hair, you know, so they advise my mum that I should cut my hair off. And my mum cut my hair off. Oh my god, I hated her. Because for me, this is something that makes me feel powerful as a girl as a woman. And then someone gives me some advice that they should cut it off. And I literally  I hated everyone. Everyone that was saying that. And then when I came here, everyone is like, they look at me. When you're walking on the streets, everyone gives you this I like I don't know, which I like I don't know what that means. But you I feel when I was in vengan I walk on the street. Where is that is in Alcoy is or Deutschland South Germany? Yeah. So when I was walking, that is where I did my FSJ. that is social Arbeit

Otako  8:14  
volunteer service.

Unknown Speaker  8:16  
Thank you. Yeah. So when I was walking on the roads, I had different types of hair, let's say every one month or every two months, sometimes I combed my hair, sometimes I had it in different colors. So for me, I think that in that region, there are less black people, less black girls, and you walk on the streets and everyone is looking at you. I used to feel so bad. I used to hate myself, because everyone was looking at me. And I could not find what was wrong with me. Because I thought that I was okay. I was normal. And so when someone looks at you, then I realize okay, maybe it is because of my hair. Or maybe it is because of the way how I dress. I started changing the way how I dressed. I started changing my hair. I did not open my hair again. I had it braided all the time. And I also changed the road that I was using. But then my friend came to visit me she I told her my problem what I was facing that time and she told me that carol your hair is beautiful. Your hair is beautiful. Everyone would love to see your hair. Just be yourself. Just be who you are. Just embrace your hair, embrace who you are. And I started doing that. And I felt better. I felt okay. And I feel so happy even when I have my hair open to show everyone this is who an African woman is. This is how I'm supposed to be. I'm not supposed to hide my hair because people look at me because people want to touch it. I tell them don't touch. If you want to touch us, I will let you touch it. Exactly.

Otako  9:49  
And it's your decision. Whether you say yes, exactly or not. Yes. So have you ever experienced a moment where you feel like here in Germany? cut off your hair.

Unknown Speaker  10:01  
No, I am this kind of person who is very independent. I know people face it so hard that they cannot do their hair. But for me, I go an extra mile if someone cannot help me with my hair because I always, you always need someone to help you with your hair. Because if it is too much, it is hard and all that stuff. But I always go an extra mile I learned things on the internet from YouTube and everywhere I read how can I make my hair? How can I do it myself? If someone is not there to help me? You know, when I was at home, my mom washed my hair. My siblings, my nephews, they unplated they plated it. So I had it was just luxury. When I came here it is a single man power. I have to do it myself. But it had never crossed my mind to say that correct? Please cut off your hair. It is too much. No, I say I will manage it. Like managing any other situation in life. I will manage. This is just here. And it doesn't speak. It is me to rule it. So I've never had that. And I'm very happy and I'm keeping on fighting for it. It will not put me down. I will fight for this hair. And I will plat it. I will make it however I want.

Otako  11:14  
What is your take? What do you say about people who put wigs ,the fake hair? Yeah, I don't know. That's right to call it fake hair .

Unknown Speaker  11:22  
I think it's not fake. I think I would say it is not fake, but rather it is in a way of art. Yeah. I think sometimes I also put on wigs. Because sometimes this hair is too much to be honest. You need a lot to do to make it look the way how it looks. You know? And if you do not put on wigs sometimes. How are you going to manage it? Yeah. But if you're putting if you're putting it on every day, I would say that embrace yourself. Embrace your hair. Embrace your natural reality. Yeah. Take a moment, make your hair open, let it breathe. You know, don't put it on wigs everyday. I don't support it. I don't feel so good. or so powerful when I'm putting on wigs. I always have this insecurity in me thinking that what if someone touches it without my permission and it falls off? You know, do you know how much embarrassment I will be leaving in at that moment. So when I am putting on wigs I always think of this moment when it is falling off. So I have to make sure that it is fest on my head like it is very very there. Yeah. So I feel like people should embrace themselves they should embrace their hair. They should love it. Just love the way it is how it is.

Otako  12:50  
I like your point of that people should embrace their hair, love it, put the wig if their wishes their decision, and also form of art that people can definitely use it. The way they want but it should embrace the idea. I want to just share with you a personal experience because of my dreads one time hi and my wife were in Uganda. And then I had to go and visit my sister in the in a police Beracks,the police Beracks is more of like, the quarters or the quarters where policemen leave with their families. Because my sister she's a police officer. So I decided to visit her with my wife by then she was my girlfriend. So because she had called me Otako Yeah, you are around and you are there with your wife or your wife or my by by then my girlfriend. Could you pay a visit , just visit me. I told my girlfriend Yeah, why don't we visit since we're here for Shor time and we shall be traveling back to Germany. Yeah, yeah. Then I went with my sister. To enter the Beracks the quarters of the police policemen or the police officers I was denied. Why? What the policeman at the entrance said, See you have hair for girls dreads. You are not supposed to enter this Beracks. This quarter with your hair. But that was how I was denied to go and see my sister because of my dreads. I was pushed out of the Beracks and said yeah, this woman she can go but you you stay here because of your hair. You are like a woman. Yeah. Yeah, it hurts because it takes time to really grow your dreads. Yeah, it takes time to grow dreads because and also he added no and said we don't know if you use drugs you know you people with dreads. Yeah, we use drugs who don't know me your are a Emuyahe, Emuyahe in Uganda is like. Like, I don't know how to define that in English, but someone who's a failure, maybe a drug addict, a criminal? Yeah, you have dreads. So that's how I was denied to go and see my sister, with my girlfriend. So I had to turn away and go back. And I called my sister. And I told her I cannot come to your place because at the entrance of the police barracks, they have told me I can't come to, I can't enter inside because of my dreads. Then she said, No problem. Let me come and pick you, myself. And the person there said ah, this is your brother, but he has women's hair. Let him cut off that women's hair that's how sad   it was you get that? Also, have you ever been denied somewhere because of your hair?

Unknown Speaker  15:52  
In school, that Ugandan school system the way how it dictates that girls or children should cut off their hair before they come to school, where you are at school, you cannot estimate how your hair will grow. Because let's say after three weeks, my hair has already grown. And a teacher comes in with this thing. How do they? Yeah, seiza or a machine to cut off people's hair or children's hair of their heads? Because it has grown because the school system says that no one is supposed to have hair. I have faced that like a lot in school in the Ugandan school system. I really don't like it. I really find it that. Yeah. If kids want to grow their hair, they should have that freedom, you know? And then the most and sadest thing is that these people let's have the Indians, let's say the Chinese, any other people from other countries or children from other countries were led to have their hair. Their hair was not touched. But you are Ugandan child, or Ugandan boy or Ugandan girl, your hair was cut off before you enter the school gates. I don't know how to call that. I don't know which sort of discrimination that is. But that is bad. I really find it very disappointing that our system our government lets that to go on and on. If they want to have it uniform. Why don't they cut off everyone's hair? Why don't they cut off even the Indian kids hair? Why?

Otako  17:38  
Yeah, I can see that. I personally also studied in a school system from Uganda. And we are always told to cut off our hair. Whenever it grew. I felt also the same with really so sad. But of course, there was a school where I was we had some foreigners, they could leave them to be with their hair forexample. They're coming from Europe or from Asia. They could leave them to have their hair. Yeah, but you as a Ugandan, an African, we are told or is cut off your hair for you come to school. But I think this is because of the colonial system. When the colonialist came to Africa, they told Africans to always cut off the hair to get a job with a say that their hair was smelling Their hair was deit. So they told people to cut off their hair. And in Uganda to be employed for any job. You should always have short hair. As a man, you are not allowed to have dreadlocks. You cannot go to teach in school with dreadlocks. Even politicians that are made it even those that had dreadlocks, they cut them off. You get that for example Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu (Bobi Wine) he had dreads. You know, when he was voted to become a member of parliament, he had to cut off his hair. Yeah. The other musicians that were campaigning in Uganda and politics, they had to cut off their hair. You get that? Yeah. So it's so sad that it is like that.

Carol  19:16  
Yeah, I was reading. Like in the past weeks, I was reading a little bit about women and like black history a little bit. And this is where I came with. I found this thing of hair where people were cut off their hair. The women you you're the only woman in this working office and you had to cut off your hair. They saw your hair as a threat. But people are supposed to leave the way how they want people are supposed to embrace their hair. People are supposed to embrace themselves because I believe that if your hair if you don't have hair on your head, I think you'll feel naked. It's like you have no clothes on.

Otako  19:57  
 That is really important because hair is part of our Our bodies Why should not cut it off? if i don't want to cut it off. It is my choice to cut off my dreadlocks. Unless it's a medical issue.

Carol  20:09  
Yeah, unless Yeah, that's Yeah, yeah. Oh, and by the way I work in kindergarten, where children also find it exciting or fascinating. I don't know how to or interesting when they see my hair every month new color. One time my child told me carol your hair looks like ropes. And yeah, I laughed because these are kids. And if they want to touch, I tell them please ask. Don't just touch. Then when they ask I let them touch. Yeah.

Otako  20:48  
Yeah, I think it's really nice because as in children all over the world. They learn and they ask questions, and it's very important to we as adults to always answer these questions. Yeah, even in Uganda. Children could ask me. Why do you have hair for women? And then I could tell them, these are dreadlocks. I can make them they are called dreads. Yeah, it's my real hair. I just make dreads and then they know, even here in European German when because I walk into kindergarten. I find children asking me what is that hair? Yeah. How do you call your hair? Can I touch your hair? And then I'm like, Yeah, you can touch and exercise through beautiful AI tell them to and I love it. They way you love yours so Is the more fun we have talking about Hair. It's so beautiful that because if you don't tell them that you should ask me to touch tomorrow, they're gonna find another person with the hair like yours, and they will just touch because they were not told. Yeah. And they're supposed to learn. What how do you define that when someone touches your hair? Or someone? Like in Europe, how do you define that? Your personal? I think, not as a professional.

Carol  22:08  
Not a Professional. I'm not hair profession. I'm not a hairstylist. I'm just Carol. Yeah, I think that that is disrespect. And that is being rude. That is being impolite. That is. Yeah, I don't like it. Ask. It's the same way how the Bible says ask. And it shall be given. Be Yeah. Yeah, so I really find it rude. Yeah, that someone just touches your hair. Because I believe that this person who is just touching your hair does not want to just be touched. Like seriously, if you touch their dogs, if you touch their anything their personal belongings, they would be very rude to you. They would say don't touch, you know, and then they expect to just touch you. And then you don't react. No, no, no, no, I will react. Yeah, I will tell them don't touch.

Otako  23:09  
I mean, like, in your own your personal view. What would you say? For anyone who's like having his African hair or maybe leaving in Germany or Europe? What would you say about them if they are having personal just like what you said you felt at some point you want to stop covering all to keep covering your hair.

Carol  23:38  
I would say that be who you are. Just let that person in you shine outside. Do not hide yourself because people force you to just tell the people your limits, tell them I do not want to be put yourself out there and tell the people what you want. Do not let them to step on you. I believe that everyone is powerful in their own ways. And just embrace who you are. Be who you are. Do not let anyone make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. Because for me, I believe that you come from wherever you come. You are capable of something. You are someone do not let someone put you down because of your hair because of your skin color because of you that we how you dress. Just embrace yourself, embrace who you are.

Otako  24:35  
But do not in my culture. Like where from where I come from in Busoga in Uganda. Eastern region Hair is something really very important. When I was growing up, they could tell us when you cut off your hair, don't just throw it around. Keep it safe where it is that no one will ever Find your area, or throw it where you are not finding it, burn it or burn it. Because they we're always saying someone can use your hair to bitch you, which I don't know whether it's true. Did you? hear such a thing? 

How was it in your community when you grew up, 

Carol  25:20  
even when I was growing up, even now, let's say if I'm at home, when my mom combs my hair, she will hide it. Because she still believes that that is still I think everywhere, even in my culture in muganda culture, it is also there that, yeah, you and I think, especially when you have never cut off your hair when you were a child, because they they emphasize people to cut off kids children's hair, when they have just like when they grow and then that they cut off that first year because someone can do anything to you people can make you go crazy. I don't believe that. I don't know if I believe that. But those are stories that we are told by our ancestors, and they are still being told even right now. So I think I also do that. Like, seriously, I think I do that. Because even when I combed my hair here, I had to collect every small bit. I was looking for it all over the ground. My hair should not be anywhere. I had to keep it. I still have it in my bag Yeah. So I think I believe that I think those are the things that you believe when you do not want to believe but you believe unknowingly and then you do that with how your ancestors did? Because trust me, even at my place I call my hair I collect it. I have a bunch of hairs if you want bewitch me come at my home i have alot of hairs

Otako  26:48  
I mean, we're in Uganda is touched to so many cultural practices. Yeah. And its also  beauty. Yeah. I would like to just ask you, if there's anything else that you'd want to talk about hair?

Carol  27:03  
Oh, and by the way, what do you think of the Germans or the Europeans who have dreadlocks? What do you think about


Otako  27:12  
Me i think every human being has the right to do dreadlocks. They want to do dreadlocks. Dreadlocks? I don't think they are for one Race. Dreadlocks is their choice. Yeah, I personally I  did dreadlocks because of my personal reasons. Why did I do Dreadlocks because when I was studying in Uganda, they always told us to cut off our hair. And I never had Hair that's point number one. Number two, people could always laugh at my hair because it was small Hair. That kind of Hair that you if you are Ugandan you could understand Kaweke. I don't know how you call Kaweke in English, but it's that kind of where it is not too much. Hair like yours poor quality it is not poor quality. But that's the design of it is that's the beauty of it. That it is too much but it's small and strong. So that's kind of hair why I had to get that so people could laugh at it. And three, I wanted  to stop the colonial continuity of me cutting off my hair, which was brought by the colonialists from  Europe that we should cut off our hair because it is dirty. It is smelling it's not clean. I said no. I keep my dreadlocks. However much I was nice to go in so many places because of my dreadlocks. I did not cut them off. And they're not the best dreadlocks. But I love them so that's why I did my dreadlocks and that's how much I love my hair. That's how much I love it.

Unknown Speaker  28:59  
That I would say that you are really a powerful man you are strong because there are so many men that I've seen who have given up and cut off their dreadlocks because of the Ugandan system because of the society what that society says that man cannot have hair, man, you're not allowed to go here. You're not allowed to do this. You're not allowed to have these kinds of jobs. Some have really cut and cut their hair off but you're my friend.

Otako  29:25  
Yes. America hear that term we work in in German. We can work with my hair in where my dreadlocks but in Uganda, I was a teacher of high school. I wasn't allowed to wear dreadlocks. I was not allowed to have dreadlocks. I was not allowed to have too much hair on my head. It doesn't put this tip. Here discrimination is a systematic discrimination that has been created. In Uganda, it was brought by the colonialists and up to date We We still do it. I don't know why we still have to tell people to cut off their hair, to get a job.