Afrocenchix catches up with Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy, the wonderful author of A Quick Ting On The Black Girl Afro. Read on to learn more about her latest book and why it's such an important read.
Could you please tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got started in writing.
As a child I always loved reading, but it wasn’t until I was about to graduate from university that I discovered writing. I never thought I was that good at it (which is partly why I studied maths!), but I got involved in Gal-dem magazine and felt inspired. Writing articles made me realise that I enjoy shedding light on stories and perspectives that aren’t always represented.
Fast forward to this book, where I was approached by Magdalene Abraha who explained that she was working on creating a brilliant book series that would cover topics relating to Black British culture, and she wanted me to write one about Afro hair.
I was sceptical at first because I’d never written something of that scale before, but after some convincing, I threw myself into the journey! I’m incredibly grateful that I was given the opportunity to write A Quick Ting On The Black Girl Afro.
Do you think that people's views about Afro hair are changing?
I believe that people’s perceptions about Afro hair are starting to change for the better, however we still have some way to go.
Negative stereotypes relating to Afro hair being unattractive and unprofessional still exist, but they are constantly being challenged by individuals and organisations who are dedicated to celebrating Afro hair.
We are beginning to see Afro hair represented and championed more in fashion and mainstream media and this is something that I explore in the book. Social media has helped to create a natural hair community that I hope will continue to grow and embrace all hair types, especially the kinkiest afro.
The more we talk about all things Afro hair, the less ignorant people will be towards it, which will hopefully get rid of these negative views for good.
Do you think that Afro hair needs to be championed more in the workplace and schools?
Absolutely. We are still seeing Black children being penalised in school for natural hair styles, and adults being denied job opportunities because of their hair. Until that changes, school, companies and policymakers need to do more to combat hair discrimination.
Some states in the US have made progress on this through the CROWN act, which is a legislation that protects Black people from hair discrimination. We don’t have anything like this in the UK just yet, but many of us are campaigning for it. In the meantime, there are amazing organisations such as World Afro Day, the Halo collective and Project Embrace that are doing great work to champion Afro hair in these spaces everyday.
Why is AQTO The Black Girl Afro such an important read?
AQTO The Black Girl Afro is the book that I wish I had when I was a kid, struggling to embrace my Afro hair. It is a comprehensive introduction to the world of Afro hair, covering a range of topics from history and science to business and social media.
I dedicated the book to my young niece and it gives me joy to know that she will have a book like as she is growing up. I want Black people, particularly Black women, to read this book and feel like their hair experiences are valid and deserving of a platform. I want them to feel represented and proud of the hair that grows from their head. I want people who aren’t Black and aren’t so close to this topic to realise that Afro hair often isn’t “just hair”, and that there is so much for them to learn about this.
You have amazing hair! How do you look after your hair and what do you use?
Firstly, thank you! Over the years I’ve tried to get better at truly understanding my hair needs, and not just focusing on what makes it look good.
I shampoo and condition my hair weekly and always apply a leave-in conditioner. I love using Afrocenchix’s Swish sulphate-free shampoo and Swirl silicone-free conditioner. They leave my hair feeling great and I'm able to use them regularly compared to sulphate-containing products which can be harsh on my hair and scalp.
I generally try to avoid applying heat to my hair, but if I do, I’ll always use a heat protector. I’ve got more curling products than any other hair product in my cupboard - I love a good curl defining cream or gel to make my curls pop! Oh and satin pillowcases for the win every time!
Where can we find AQTO The Black Girl Afro?
Everywhere really - at all good bookstores and online retailers!