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In September 2014 I was invited to be part of a panel discussion on natural hair that was happening during Joburg’s inaugural Social Media Week.  The panel was held at a salon in down town Joburg and I had not known what to expect before going there.  I knew that the discussion would end up visiting the various twists and knots in the vast and topical conversation that is hair for black women, and I had hoped to learn a few things about practical hair care.  The day was a smashing success. The panel, chaired by Janine Jellars of This Here Hair engaged in a robust debate on the practical and political merits of black hair and at the end of it, I was so energized by the caliber of content and the fact that those 3 hours weren’t enough, that I immediately saw an opportunity for there to be more of these opportunities to learn and teach ourselves about our interesting hair. That was the day I met the women who would come to be members of what we have called The Feminist Stokvel.

The Feminist Stokvel is a group of 8 women who have come together with the aim of addressing the many social issues that uniquely face black women in South Africa, especially those that speak to how black women are represented in our public imagination.  We were brought together by the subject of hair, which we believe is the gateway to consciousness, self love, self respect and ultimately – self actualization for women. While we are still coming up with a manifesto, the core value in what we do is that we are here for the black woman’s shine, in very simple terms.  We haven’t launched as a group yet because we believe that our time right now is best used doing instead of saying we are going to do.  So this Hair Soiree is the first of many types of projects and events including talk shops, film screenings, panel discussions, readings, online video content and any other projects that can grow in this mind frame organically, to shift thinking on a large scale.

The Hair Soirees will be hosted once a month and they are primarily spaces to learn about how to look after natural hair, because while we can subscribe to various blogs or get advice from various sources on the net, I for one would appreciate a hair club of some sort where we just talk basics, especially about the very unique hair of Southern Africans, which I have recently learned, does not fit into the hair classifications 1 – 4 so popularized by Oprah’s Hairstylist and the American and British blogs.  In Southern Africa ladies and gentlemen — according to research that is being done on the curvature of different types of hair by a research team led by Professor Nonhlanhla Khumalo, the head of Dermatology at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital — our hair types are between Type 1 and Type 8! I visited the research team in Cape Town in January and my mind almost exploded at the groundbreaking information that Prof Khumalo and her team are uncovering about the qualities of African hair among others.

These soirees are about coming together to learn from local and international (we’ll get there) hair consultants, bloggers and informative loud mouths about this subject.  This will also, inevitably, be a purging space for black women to talk about their hair frustrations from all angles including the racialization, sexualization and general politicized nature of black hair.  While the focus wont’ be on the politics, we are exblockquoted about nurturing a space where black women can feel safe to speak freely.

The deets are on the poster, designed by my friend Anokhi Parikh in her spare time, I hope to see you all there.  The venue can hold 50 comfortably. We will only be able to accommodate those who RSVP first to our email

Come with questions, your products, your tools and an open mind.  This is the road to Uhuru.  As member Danielle Bowler would say, In Coconut Oil We Trust

Oh, I almost forgot.  This is who Feminist Stokvel are:

Wisaal Anderson – Founded and writes for the informative Wiscellaneous blog
Danielle Bowler – Writes an incredibly relevant column on EWN and is a professional musician.
Panashe Chigumadzi – Founder of Vanguard Magazine. If you haven’t heard of, check yourself
Lebo Mashile – A national treasure when it comes to thinking, writing, speaking, performing poetry
Lebogang ”Nova” Masango – Feminist writer, poet, social activist and a tattooed work of art.
Kavuli-Nyali Binase – She of the legitimate Good Hair Diaries, a hair consultant.
Pontsho Pilane – A womanist writer at The Daily Vox completing her Masters in Media Studies at Wits
And of course Me 🙂 One who has big big plans and has been sitting in the same chair for the last 13 hours working on SA work when she should be doing hair New York work while she here.

Follow @feministstokvel on Twitter! We are 5 to launching an instagram account but if you follow any of us on social media, you will see this blue poster throwing shade!

Yours in protective styling (another one stolen from Danielle)

Miss Milli

// Comments (7)
  • Lebogang says:

    How absolutely fantastic this is! And that we are FINALLY making scientific knowledge a part of our daily discourse for a self-assertion of Black is even more compelling. I came across Dr Khumalo n 2010 during a radio interview on chemically-induced Hair and Scalp pathologies among black women. I just love this little revolution, that your Stokvel furthers: where a practice at the intersection of multiple knowledges about and for ourselves can emerge and flourish. So much of our emotional, physical, and psychological wellbeing is wrapped up in and expressed through our hair and how we treat it (not to mention our politics and aspects up of our social and economic status) that it’s almost bizarre that a platform such as the one that the Stokvel represents hasn’t emerged sooner. Wish I could attend in person but won’t be able to so some kind of e-interactive link-up would be great. High Five on a fabulous concept and praxis with a compelling foundational philosophy!!

  • Linda says:

    Very Excited about this!!!

  • Linda says:

    Very Excited about this!!!!

  • rita says:

    Hi! Visiting Jozi for the first time in about two weeks, and hungry for curly hair products. I live in Germany where I have a hard time finding healthy products for Cuban girls. Any suggestions for local stores to hit up are most welcome! Very cool post!

  • Milli Bongela says:

    Hit me up when you’re in town and I’ll point you in the direction of cool products that aren’t in stores, you can order online or meet the makers

  • BERTHA says:

    I am speechless. This blog touches me so much. I am a new comer and already so attached. Thank You for reminding everyone that we are who we are and we are beautiful in every way anyway anyone can think.

  • Dear Lebogang Mashile and Team
    iam so inspired about your initiative and iam asking can visit you area to share something with you.
    I know you focused on women but perhaps we can share some ideas and experiences.

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