jeudi 19 octobre 2017

When I look back at my teens, I empathize with the little me.

It all began when I started noticing the differences between me, my family and the outer world. My mother is white, my father is black, both from the South of Morocco, with African features. So, I grew up surrounded by family members that I resemble: dark skin, nappy curly hair, long fingers…
Thanks to my grandfather (blessed be his soul), with whom I spent most of my childhood, I learnt to appreciate his skin tone and mine as well. I grew fond of his skin that shone as if it was highly-polished.

I was full of myself, my perfectly curly hair and doll-like figure. At early age, I had never really understood the weight of difference between myself and my Caucasian classmates and friends. For me, skin color was a feature just like an eye, or a leg, or a mouth, just a thing that anyone has, a part of who we are.

During my teen, and with the overwhelming urge to fit into the surrounding, I started comparing myself to others. Mainly comparing my gravity-defying curls to those silky hair strands of my classmates and of the characters in cartoons and later on, to those of the women in TV commercials and movies. To be honest, my blackness never ever created any issue but my hair did.
My 4A-type natural hair used to reach my lower back. At first, my mother took good care of it: applying natural masks, Henna treatment and other natural grandmother-to-daughter recipes. My aunt used to braid it for me. My favorite hairstyle was cornrow braids. One of my primary school teachers used to make fun of my hairstyle. At first, it was a joke I enjoyed along with my classmates as he used to compare the braid rows to roads and used to give each row a direction.

This is the road to Marrakesh, that the highway to Tangier, this to Casablanca and this takes you downtown”, he used to say while finger tracing the spaces between the rows. I used to laugh. But that road nomination comparison game repeated itself every single time I put corn braids, which was often. Why is it always me? I used to wonder. Other girls used to wear their hair in two-section buns or French braids. And never ever did he point that out. Why me?
By the age of 15, I had to start taking care of my own hair. The products available in the Moroccan markets back then were not suitable for natural hair . Nothing seemed to help me smooth the frizz, comb and untangle and style my natural hair; No thing seemed to help me cope and shield myself from the constant remarks about my hair.
My aunt stopped braiding it for me. My own mother had been relaxing her hair since God knows when and wore it short. My cousins had silky hair. My younger sister had silky hair as well. I was the only one in almost all my classes with curly hair. I always stood out whereas I was trying to fit in.

Then, people offered me advice, to which I carefully listened: how relaxing my hair would make me fit in and make me look 'normal', even girly-er and more beautiful, and would help me manage all that hair. I urged my mother to relax my hair, which she did. I relaxed those gravity-defying, natural, frizzy hairs.
Guess what? Even with relaxed hair I just could not fit in. I used to relax my hair every 6–9 months for about 5 years, if I remember well. My hair became so damaged that nothing I do help: breakage, heat damage, hair loss, you name it. I had enough. I stopped by the time I finished high school and resumed university.

By then, I grew tired of all those burdens and decided to drop them and live. I don’t fit in, so what? I don’t have to fit in to live, to study, and to build a career and a future. I no longer knew how to take care of my damaged hair, neither how to style it, so what? I’ll just moisturize it and wear it in a bun. After a while, I just had enough. I started doing research to better understand how to deal with my hair. I learnt about the famous “big chop”, about transitioning, natural hair types, hair loss and damage solution and so on and so forth.

It took almost 4 years to grow my hair back, a much healthier natural hair. I regained my curls and my pride, to be honest. How? Alienation. I had to live in another city to pursue my studies. I was a foreigner and knew almost no one. That alienation made me reach many conclusions, most important of which were self-love. I big-chopped during that period.

Went from mid-back long damaged hair to a five-year-old-Micheal-Jackson Afro. That big chop was more than cutting damaged hair, it was also cutting through those self demeaning tendencies. It was cutting deep into those built-up prejudices that I took over from what people labelled me by. It was cutting deep into myself.

That Afro made me befriend lots of natural hair buddies, made. That standing out I always hated during my childhood became my strongest asset. During those 3 years, I read and read and read about self-acknowledgement, self-esteem, and self-knowledge, embracing the self, and owning the difference; about the struggle to overcome that yearning to fit in. I watched loads of videos, Tedx talks, comedy shows with Africans, African-Americans and black communities, with people that look like me, with Afro heads, natural, nappy, kinky, and curly hair. I found the representation I always needed. I will be the representation that many girls need.

NB. I don't own the art works.

vendredi 13 octobre 2017

"يا باخلا بالوصل"

"يا من هواه أعزه وأذلني
 كيف السبيل إلى وصالك دلني
 وتركتني حيران صباً هائماً
 أرعى النجوم وأنت في نوم هني
 عاهدتني أنْ لا تميل عن الهوى
 وحلفت لي يا غصن أن لا تنثني
 هبّ النسيم ومال غصنُ مثله
 أين الزمان وأين ما عاهدتني
 جاد الزمان وأنت ما واصلتني
 يا باخلاً بالوصل أنت قتلتني
واصلتني حتى ملكت حشاشتي
 ورجعتَ من بعد الوصال هجرتني
 الهجر من بعد الوصال قطيعة
 يا ليت من قبل الوصال تركتني
 أنت الذي حلفتني وحلفت لي
 وحلفت أنك لا تخون فخنتني
 لما ملكت قياد سرى بالهوى
 وعلمت أني عاشق لك خنتني
ولأقعدن على الطريق فاشتكى
في زي مظلوم وأنت ظلمتني
 ولأشكينك عند سلطان الهوى
 ليعذبنك مثل ما عذبتني
 ولأدعين عليك في جنح الدجى
 فعساك تبلى مثل ما أبليتني"
............................ سعيد بن أحمد بن سعيد