OPINION

The politics of hair: Understanding the Clicks hair ad saga

SOUTH Africa has a long political history regarding hair.

With the introduction of the Population Registration Act of 1950, tests were used to figure out someone’s race. One of these was the “pencil” test. 

This involved sliding a pencil into someone’s hair. If the pencil did not fall out, the person was considered not white. As result of these type of tests, there were some families which had members classified in different population groups. 

Despite the ending of apartheid, the issue of hair remains an unresolved one. 

Twenty-two years after the democracy, the issue of black hair was still causing trauma.  

In 2016, Zulaikha Patel, who was 13 years old at the time, embarked on a peaceful protest at Pretoria High School for Girls after it was revealed that black children had to straighten their hair in order for it it be considered neat.

The matter didn’t end there. Just a year later, 11 girls were thrown off the grounds of Kempton Park School for wearing what was termed “inappropriate” hairstyles. The girls had come to school in Afros and braids. 

These are not the only incidents in our not so distant past across the country at our schools where black hair has been deemed “unacceptable”. 

So it really should not be a surprise that a controversial hair advert managed to make its way onto the Clicks website and no one thought anything was wrong with it. 

The advert showed African natural hair with the labels “frizzy and dull” and “dry and damaged”, while under the pictures of white hair there were the labels “normal hair, fine” and “fine and flat”. 

In light of this, News24’s opinion writers have tried to make sense of black hair, exclusion and whether the EFF’s entry into the fray and resulting violence will have an impact on the debate. 

You can read the submissions below: 


Clicks hair row: The roots of this problem go much deeper

Putting a band-aid on and apologising and offering to give money to a women’s organisation is not enough, argues Nthabi Nhlapo about the Clicks hair ad row. 


Clicks hair ad row: Our hair is a constant festering wound

Whether black women are at school or in the boardroom, they are constantly having to answer for their hair, writes Nondwe Majundana.


Clicks hair ad row: We should ask more questions before we call it racist

We should first seek answers from Clicks about what it meant by “damaged hair” before classifying it as a racial advert, writes Londiwe Buthelezi.


Here we go again, another f*** you to black women

We should not accept Clicks’ apology and its tiresome that EFF keeps climbing on the bandwagon, writes Nomvelo Chalumbira .


The brokenness of a child being told her hair is not straight enough to be an angel

The collective trauma of hair can be traced back to the Population Registration Act of 1950 which classified South Africans into race groups, writes Duncan Alfreds. 

The controversial advert by Clicks is patently racist and the company deserves to be sanctioned. But the behaviour by Julius Malema’s EFF is also obviously criminal and exposes a party with nothing to offer, except violence and intimidation, writes Pieter du Toit. – News24


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