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The Afro issue, an insult to Africans

Publishing Date : 25 September, 2017

Gasebalwe Seretse

Rainbow High School, a well-known English-medium school in Gaborone recently became infamous for abolishing Afro hair among its black students.

Interestingly, this meant that black students were subtly encouraged to shun their natural hair and straighten it a bit or even cut it or style it in a way that would please people from other races, while they in turn wallow in sorrow. While we may not want to make this a race issue, why is it that people from other races were allowed to wear their hair naturally without any restrictions? Why is it that a memo was only sent out to black students and whites and Asians were left out?

Needless to say, this issue attracted much debate in the country whose population is mostly black and therefore have Afros naturally. One young black Motswana posted on social media that to him Afro is not a hairstyle but the natural way that his hair grows; and he made it clear that he really felt insulted and degraded although he is not a student at Rainbow. He said that it is the texture of his black hair that makes it grow in a round shape if it is allowed to grow undisturbed hence banning the Afro would be like banning nature.

The big question is, how do people come to our country, become our guests and later dictate how we should live our lives? Isn’t this asking for too much? We as Africans, for so many years, have been taught to do things in a certain way so as to be accepted by people of other races! This is very sad indeed. We have been taught to shun our way of life to an extent that if we don’t do something the Western way we are deemed inferior. We have cast away African clothes because we were told that we looked like savages in them and we believed it.

We write and speak English better than Setswana and other indigenous languages because we have been taught that our languages are primitive. Nowadays, it is commonplace to find a Motswana kid who can’t express himself or herself in the vernacular and you find that the parents encourage that. We have even ditched the healthier African diet of mabele, phane, morogo, indigenous squash and dinawa and instead we prefer the Western foods that like ice cream, fizzy drinks loaded with sugar and we have realised too late that our food is healthier. It has been discovered that the rise of diabetes amongst Africans can be partly attributed to change of diet over the years.

Even our text books fail to tell the African story the way it is and instead we are told what other people want us to hear. We are taught history from the perspective of people from other races. Our women who wear Brazilian weaves and other artificial hair pieces and wigs are regarded more beautiful than the ones who wear their hair natural, which is sad indeed. It is very clear that when people from other races see that we as Africans don’t love our own instead we prefer their things, they now find it their duty to teach us how to live our lives.   

Even Africans in the Diaspora have fought for centuries for their voice to be heard and their faces to  be seen. That is why even in a country like America, which is regarded in some quarters as a beacon of democracy, we still have people who want to be taught that ‘black lives matter’. Donald Molosi, a well-known artist in Botswana is one of the few people who has been brave enough to approach the school in question to ask them to explain their unfortunate stance in the Afro matter. Molosi asserts that after engaging the principal of the school, an agreement was reached that Afros would be allowed in the school.

Truth of the matter is, this debate should never have been there in the first place because the management of that school knows that they are in an African country and they should align their school policies to embrace the African-ness of their black students who I suspect are in the majority. While the school is said to have ditched its policy on Afros, this begs the question, why did they even think about banning Afro in the first instance? It’s high time Botswana leaders unite and take a stand against such an unbecoming and racist attitude.

Molosi is not only a versatile artist but he is also a founder of  the Upright African Movement which promotes African culture, history and arts. He believes we have to start in the classroom setting to celebrate our African-ness. Our children have to be taught that Africa and her children are great. We have to celebrate our heroes and heroins before we celebrate people from other culture and races. We have to tell our stories in a way that  make us proud of where we come from.

We should teach our children that it is okay to speak in their mother tongues even if they are eloquent in English and other foreign languages. We should encourage our young one to embrace their blackness while getting to know and appreciate other cultures. We must tell our women that black and natural is still beautiful while we allow them to beautify themselves in the way they want. Then no one would be able to tell us that we should not look the way God created us.



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