Activist pens a story for girls to embrace their Afro crowns

19 April 2021 - 11:47
By Lingua Franca Publishers

“We must celebrate the heritage of Afro hair, and encourage young girls to embrace their hair and be proud of their natural beauty.”

Having lived a courageous and sometimes difficult journey in relation to her own hair, author and activist Zulaikha Patel has written the children’s book My Coily Crowny Hair  to empower and encourage girls from an early age to embrace and not to be ashamed of their Afro hair.

“I want to spark a global and meaningful conversation about Afro hair among parents/guardians and children which will hopefully create a culture of self-love, self-care and confidence,” says Patel.

The book, published by Lingua Franca Publishers, is illustrated by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne, with the foreword written by Nomzamo Mbatha.

My Coily Crowny Hair approaches the issue of Afro hair through the eyes of the main character Lisakhanya, a seven-year-old girl who draws courage from her mother, grandmother and the African queen, to celebrate her hair and style it in the many different creative hairstyles with which girls from around the world can relate. These include an Afro, braids, bantu knots, Ben and Betty, twists, a tied-up phondo and many others.

“One morning, on Africa Day, Lisakhanya is preparing to visit the museum with her cousins, Olerato and Khensani, and Gogo. Mama styles her hair in a braided Afro. Lisakhanya looks like the young queen she is.”

The story emphasises that girls are brave and smart, and are capable of limitless potential if they believe in their own worth.

“You can be an engineer, a speaker, a teacher or even a president! With your hair, you can be anything that you want to be.”

The story resonates strongly with Patel, who first grabbed the world’s attention when she became the symbol of the fight against institutionalised racism at Pretoria High School for Girls at the age of 13. She led a protest against institutionalised racism in schools in SA and the decolonisation of hair policies in schools.