Nappy, messy, unprofessional – natural hair is always a hot topic of conversations.
Over the years these conversations have gone from being negative to increasingly positive, with more and more individuals embracing their coils and curls.
15 September marks World Afro Day, a day that celebrates hair, culture and identity.
"It's spiritual," says Tulisa Mondliwa, who studied chemistry and now manufactures her own natural hair products, when describing her Afro.
In the process of reading for her bachelor of science degree, Tulisa learned that relaxers are harmful to her hair and that inspired her to get her first big chop.
Shockingly, she could not find natural hair products that were neither harmful to her hair type nor her environment. So she embarked on a journey to educate herself about her hair.
“I haven’t always wanted to make hair products but it came at a time where I cut my hair and was tired of relaxing. After I cut my hair I struggled to find products that I was happy with. I then decided to start making my own products," she says, because she'd know exactly what went into making them.
Now, as a qualified manufacturer, Tulisa makes her own 100% natural and sustainable hair products for Afro hair.
“In third year, I did a green and medicine chemistry course. From then I was very interested in making products and focusing on environmentally friendly and natural products,” she tells Drum.
Tulisa then started manufacturing her own products in 2016. She used social media to sell them and, recently, she opened a shop in Makhanda.
Detailing the process, Tulisa says she understands the diversity of Afro hair and uses that as a determinant for which product is useful for which hair type.
“Our hair is not just hair, there’s a certain energy that is attached to it. I have noticed that when I am not in a good space it is reflected on my hair but the minute I take good care of it, I radiate good energy," she says.
But the product manufacturing process is not easy. “It’s a tricky process. When making hair butter, the temperature plays a big role. For example, the process is longer in summer because of the heat. You heat the butter for it to melt. But for it to solidify, it takes time. In winter, it's quicker. I use room temperature for my products I don’t like manipulating the temperature."
Tulisa says it’s great to be able to manufacture her own products but she faces many challenges and her biggest is developing the right consistency of the products.
“Mastering the formulas is a struggle. I constantly have to change my formulas as the butter cannot be too soft or too hard or my customers will not be satisfied and that means I lose a lot of money. Customers that are not patient when the butter is too hard won't come back because they did not find the product they are looking for. So I always to try satisfy them with best of my abilities."
There isn’t a large community of hair manufactures and Tulisa wants to help build one; where they can support each other and have conversations about the challenges they face and how to tackle them.
“I hope to create a community that does not compete but understands there’s a space for all of us to work together."