AMERICANAH- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Hair as a political thing.

Adichie handles hair not only as a source of identity but  also as a sort of political description of a human (especially females). She takes a seemingly inconsequential idea of hair, and puts it in the context of dependence and self determination, in essence, making it something of curious interest to the reader.

My gal, rocking those braids

Hair for one, can be described as a political thing as it represents identity, a means of identification of race and nationality. While the silky straights and curls define the American whites ( yeah I’m quite aware that other nationalities also have this hair structure, but remember that we have our  laser focus on the book Americanah.), Africans sprout the kinky wooly stuffs. Thus when someone like Ifemelu walks into a white dominant office, it is explainable that she generates  curiousity ( which might manifest itself in a rude or generally not too pleasant manner). In short, hair defines differences between races.

In addition, hair also is Adichie’s symbol of independence in the sense that individuals who are not proud to come out in their natural self are depicted by the novelist as people still under the grips of western ideas of beauty. Ifemelu for one, feels ‘dehumanised’ when she has to straighten up her hair with relaxers. Wambiu a fellow African comments that her refusal to carry her hair naturally leaves her in a sort of bondage, imposed by the need to keep her hair as straight as possible and by extension keep up with the standard Americanised sense of beauty and ethics. When she reverses this decision, she finds peace and fulfillment in her new halo of a hair.


Through her blog, Ifemelu gives the novelist’s ‘subtle’ criticisms on prominent black women in the world who have done less in depicting the natural afro as a normality. For instance, Michelle Obama, a former first lady of the US, who happens to be a black,  has to wear weaves very similar to the structure of a white woman’s hair. This simply reinforces the idea of American type of hair as the standard sort. But, Ifemelu is quick to note that if she (Michelle), does not conform with this standards, her husband would not likely win the primaries, not to mention the presidential election. This begs the question if Obama’s victory in the elections really signifies hope for Africans: both American and non American in the United states? How would he be able to fight that singular thread that runs through the whole fabric of the American society- racism?, Those norms and standards that places the coloureds at a disadvantage which he, to an extent, already succumbs to? Having an hindsight of Obama’s rule in America, it is not too wrong to say that Obama could not really fight racism in America. Let’s not forget the shootings of black men towards the end of the regime that brought about the movement #blacklivesmatter.
As much as the story Americanah entwines concepts of identity, race, nationality society and many more related issues together, hair being an index of identity connects with race and nationality in the political sense. Hair determines to an extent, how the game of politics is played, not only in terms of presidential elections but also in the context of interactions among people of different race that make up the diversified America, and the world at large, where the power of the majority group, overshadows the choices of the minority.


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