As you know I believe that children need to see as many books, toys, dolls, etc. featuring good images that look like them as possible. So when Secrets of the Afro Comb, 6,000 Years of Art and Culture author asked The Natural Lounge to be one of the stops on her blog tour, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Not only that but at the very end of this article you have the chance to win a signed copy of the book…or even a grand prize…read on for details
Kandace, do you consciously put illustrations in your children’s books that always show images of natural hair?
Yes and no. As I mentioned in your Natural Inspiration series (previous post here), I’ve been natural for more than a decade so it’s a lifestyle choice for me but subconsciously that influences my work.
However, because in ancient times most people of African descent wore natural hairstyles and my books are usually about Black history prior to enslavement, natural hair is just the norm to show.
As part of the research for the book, were there any hairstyles in particular that stood out over time?
Quite a few actually but one in particular is this short twisted hairstyle which appears both as a hairstyle and also has wigs modelled on it. I am fascinated by this style and would like to do more research into it. It’s found in ancient Egypt and among Nigerian elites about 100 years ago as shown in the book but I didn’t mention that I’ve also seen something similar in ancient Greece and I’d like to follow that up.
Are you planning to work on more books, perhaps solely focused on natural hair?
Yes I am. I actually have ideas for 3 different books just about natural hair. None of these books have been done by anyone and thinking about it, that’s surprising. The winner of the grand prize on this blog tour will be featured in the first book.
The print that is also a part of the grand prize giveaway is based on an illustration in the book. I know that you don’t illustrate so how did you choose the styles to feature?
For that illustration, I could fit in eight hairstyles comfortably so we showed short and longer Afros, cornrows, locks, twists and an Afro puff style. These are all styles that children today can identify with yet are also all more historical than most people realise. I just gave the suggestions and the artist came up with the final look which I was delighted with and has received good feedback.
Did you find any surprising information when you were writing the book?
Where do I start? There were so many surprises Angel. As you know, the book was written initially as part of last summer’s Origins of the Afro Comb exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. One thing that the research threw up and deserves more research is the role of hair and hair combs during captivity in the Americas and the Caribbean. Did you know that hair combs belonging to enslaved people had been found on plantations? I didn’t!
It makes sense really when you think about it because the enslaved people would have wanted to hold on to their identity in terrible circumstances that denied their humanity. Many were coming from cultures where their hairstyle had cultural meaning.
The Secrets of the Afro Comb book is actually a mix of hair biology and Black history combined together? Was this easy?
No, it was really challenging to be honest, Angel. It does make the book a bit unusual in that it’s not just about the characteristics of natural hair or just about history but most people do seem to like that.
I actually found the hair biology part of the book harder than the history part but it was important to explain African hair type in a child-friendly way so that I could explain African combs. African combs are of course art but they’re also often tools for grooming natural hair.
I was so challenged by making sure that the hair biology was written simply enough. If you remember, that’s when I approached you to have a read of the draft wasn’t it?
Yes, and thank you for mentioning that in the acknowledgments. So, apart from seeing positive images of themselves which I think is so important, are there other ways that you think children could benefit from your book?
To be honest, I think that equally important is having the information about why their natural hair is the way it is.We can all describe the characteristics of African hair type, I mean we can describe how Black hair is but explaining why it is the way it is, that’s a different matter.
Children can really benefit from reading about their hair type in a positive book and from seeing an illustration of a curved hair follicle with a darker skin tone rather than the round hair follicle with a straight light-coloured hair that is usually featured in books and online on children’s science websites.
You told me that you came across something a bit absurd when you were doing the research for this book. Can you share that with us?
Did I? Oh yes! I realised that most of the research into African hair is conducted by relaxer companies. Their reports often state that Black hair is not versatile and needs to be relaxed in order to get into different hairstyles. When I read that, I was so shocked.
This is why I believe it is good to know more about the history of hair and of natural hairstyles over thousands of years. If anything we haven’t even begun to touch the range of hairstyles people wore in the past.
Well, Kandace, thank you for stopping by The Natural Lounge on your tour.
Thank you for having me Angel!
Kandace will be appearing in all these blogs as part of her tour
Sunday 5th October – The Calabash Hub
Monday 6th October – The Natural Lounge
Tuesday 7th Ocotber – That Healthy Feeling
Wednesday 8th October – United Kinkdom
Thursday 9th – TBC
About the Author
Kandace (writing as K.N. Chimbiri) is the author and publisher of three ancient African history books for children; the history-themed activity book, Step back in time to ancient Kush, The Story of Early Ancient Egypt and Secrets of the Afro comb, 6,000 years of art and culture.
Her idea was simple: create the books that would be there if the world was fair. She aims to create books that are positive for children of African descent
I hope you were reading carefully – I have a signed copy of the Secrets of the Afro Comb book to giveaway today. To enter, leave your answer to this question in the comments box below on the Natural Lounge website
All you have to do is tell me “which museum exhibition in Cambridge was this book written for?” And for once this competition is to anyone worldwide but closes on the 25th October.
Don’t worry if you don’t win today because at the end of the blog tour, all commentators across all the participating blogs will be entered into a fantastic grand prize draw. If you win the grand prize draw, you will:
*Be captured as a black & white line drawing in Kandace’s forthcoming book. Imagine seeing your face and your favourite natural hairstyle illustrated in a book.
• Get a limited-edition museum quality print of the illustration we discussed above. Keep it for yourself or gift it to a treasured child as colourful and positive artwork for their bedroom wall.
• Receive an autographed copy of Secrets of the Afro Comb, 6,000 Years of Art and Culture.
GOOD LUCK ALL