Sunday, 20 January 2013

Natural hair in Kumba, CMR

It's hot and very dry with a cool Hamatan breeze in CMR, which I think is lovely. Kumba is somewhat transformed by the new tarred road that now runs completely through it in all directions. There is an awful water crisis at the moment as there is no clean pipe-borne water supply. I intend to write a post about the water situation in Kumba, and how everyone is coping but firstly, I'd like to share the feed back that I've gotten so far from my friends and family on my hair.

Conversation about it has always begone with a variation of the question "why did you cut your hair"? Most of my siblings have either already gone completely natural or want to as well. The friends that I have run into say it is "different". I don't know what I was expecting, but most people seem to want to go natural but are mainly held back by the amount of effort involved in maintaining a head of natural hair. The other concern is the limited availability of hair products.

Some people have expressed reservation about the way I wear my hair i.e  my dad. I'm not exactly a neat freak when it comes to how I wear my hair, so I probably look a bit wild in a country where a somewhat conservative appearance is still the norm. I don't particularly think I have to tackle my hair into a deliberate style most of the time. It's so hot here that I have to muster up energy to not go back to bed once I've dropped my kids off at school. I wear my hair in two-strand twists pulled back with a band and when I do take out the twists, I just let it slowly unravel into an uncombed fro-halo as the days go by. To this my mom said, "I hope you haven't been wearing your hair like that to job interviews"!

 I've been getting nasty looks from my younger daughter's teacher and she has even pointed out that my daughter's hair needs to be done (because what I've "done" to it is not "done" enough)! I've objected to my girls' hair being tightly corn-rowed. It looks uncomfortable, it is uncomfortable and I won't allow them to suffer because that's what "done" hair looks like. I will admit that I'm struggling with figuring out the best styles for their hair. They both have very different textures and lengths. The little one has very soft, fine hair which breaks easily. Her hair has never been cut but it is still 5ins long. The older one has very coarse, dry texture with a lot of shrinkage. Since I big-chopped all the straightened hair AGAIN, it's just under 4ins!! I presently have three natural heads to manage with a very limited availability of ready-made hair-care products.

Keeping moisture in hair for any length of time is not happening here very well. It is the heart of the dry season at the moment. I've been on the hunt for leave-in conditioners but so far, I haven't had much luck in the local market and supermarkets. My sister found Optimum Oil Therapy 3-n-1 Creme Oil Moisturizer in Tiko (3813) and this is what I have been using as a leave-in moisturizer for my girls. I also try to hydrate every morning before school with some water and coconut oil.

It's the weekend and I have just spent Saturday morning washing and braiding hair. My mom is grateful to have the girls out of her "Kaba" and my dad has a bit of breathing space while I contend with all the question nuances, tantrums and self-assertiveness coming from the girls. I also have to tackle the laundry (by hand) later on. Washing anything is a process since tap water is actually really dirty right now. It's mostly residue/pigment free today so I might just go ahead and wash my hair in the shower. For the girls, I only use ground water from a nearby aquifer borehole for washing, and bottled water for drinking.

I'm planning to start a natural hair country tag on youtube this weekend (assuming I will be able to upload the video since internet service is shytsville here except between 12 am and 5am)! I'm hoping to get a wealth of information from other Cameroonians, or people living in tropical counties like mine. Because of the limited availability of ready-made products, it will be important to learn how to make our own hair products from natural ingredients that seem to be abundant here.

I think I've got the handle on this cornrow technique!

At the train station in Fiango, Kumba. I got reprimanded for taking pictures on the premises without seeking permission. Now I know better. I was really impressed with the renovation on this building.
With Sido at Canton restaurant.

In Kumba Town with Aunty Eli. Day 2 of unraveled 2 strand twists.

With the girls, sporting a fro-halo!
My products are Timotei's pure shampoo, TRESemme's Luxurious Moisture conditioner, Naked Style's Little Miracle leave-in conditioner, John Frieda's Frizz-Ease conditioning spray and coconut oil. 

Hair products for the girls include, Boots baby shampoo, L'Oreal's Kids extra gentle de-tangling conditioner, Optimum Oil Therapy 3-n-1 Creme Oil Moisturizer, Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.


  1. Great piece Bedie, awesome article, i enjoyed reading. For my natural hair, i use self-made products. My leave-in-conditioner is made of distilled water, pure aloe-vera gel, pure glycerine, vitamin E gel, drops of avocado and grapeseed oils (you can use any carrier oil of your choice),drops of agar + tea tree oil with lavender and rose oils for fragrance (you can also use any essential oil of your choice). I mix in a spray bottle and spray every morning daily; then i deep oil my hair 2-3x a week (I also mix my hair oil myself, includes coconut, olive, grape seed, jojoba, agar, lavender and rose oils). My hair is richer, falls less and also grows faster. It is amazing really. There are loads of videos on youtube giving tutorials and tipps on how to care for natural hair with natural and self made. Wish you luck with the girls and their hair. hugs, Delphine

    1. Thanks Delphine. I will make sure to plant an aloe-vera bush in my parents compound before I head back. Most of the oils you have listed are no where to be found here, except for olive oil which is easy to find. Also, because of the internet service here, youtube is an absolute luxury. Once I settle here, hopefully find work with a decent income, I could probably afford a better connection, and maybe importing some of the essential oils and products as needs be. Great to hear from you :-)

  2. lovely to see you and your girls!! Have been thinking about you wondering how you are getting on xx
    love Fay

    1. Hello Fay. I've been looking for your Cameroonian daisies but they are quite scarce because of the dry season. I'm doing great. The girls are a handful but I love it. Will speak soon :-)

  3. Wow, Bedie, this post made me hungry for home inspite of the "different" comments, the slow Internet and water issues. You se to handling 3 natural heads remarkably well. The girls look beautiful and u got the hair down. We all know how tuff it is to handle just one. I'm looking forward to your posts. Rémé And Répé's reactions are priceless. Hang in there oh! More pics of Kumbatown... Long time oh!!! So happy that roads are tarred everywhere but what does that mean for trademark Kumba dust?

    1. LOL... the dust will always be here. Though all the main roads have been tarred, most of the "quartier" roads are still earthen. So it's still the trademark dust in the dry season and mud in the rainy season.

  4. You have an interesting blog and I admire how direct,simple and to the point you are,thank you.

  5. Hi Ma Bedie, someone sent me your blog link and said I would like it.

    Just to leave my note on this article. My peeps are from Kumba.

    one of my pet peeve with Kumba peeps is that they aren't open minded. They love a certain life style. being this a 2013 post I hope you haven't caved in like moi. who had my hair in Tandanze and speaking pidgin despite it not being my first language. Just for peace sake.
    In regards to keeping natural hair, i know how expensive things can be in pays. Check out the Facebook group Natural Hair Babes. There are tips on using everyday products from your kitchen. There is a side joke- hair don become another member of family. so this will save you some coins.

  6. Hi J, you're right about people not being open-minded here. I grew up here, but I've managed to be my own person despite criticism and pressure to conform. I do speak pidgin though... like all the time, infact, people probably think I never speak English! Thanks for the facebook group reference, will check it out. Still going strong naturally :-) Thanks for the comment...


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