Last weekend, natural hair enthusiasts came together for the Curly Treats Festival 2017 in South West London.
The Curly Treats Festival, formerly Natural Hair week, is an annual event celebrating natural hair and beauty, aiming to educate and empower the community about natural self-care. The festival provides a space for showcasing the diversity of natural hair – the different textures, lengths and curl patterns – as well exhibiting a host of natural haircare and beauty brands under one roof.
As a natural hair enthusiast, and an ex-product junkie, I was excited to attend the Curly Treats Festival. I’ve always been natural but I consciously joined the “natural hair community” in 2012 having watched YouTube videos on the Fusion of Cultures channel – created by Neffyfrofro.
It was at this point that I began to “care” for my hair.
The festival took place in the ILEC Conference Centre, in Fulham. The conference hall was well-spaced and flexible with a measuring of 1500sqm, comfortably fitting hundreds of people, vendors and products in one space.
Upon entry, I made my way to the marketplace where all the vendors were selling a variety of natural products. I was happy to see familiar brands – such as, Cantu Beauty UK and Gro Healthy – as well as new brands that were new to me.
One of the new brands I discovered was Akoma Skincare – a certified Fairtrade, organic and vegan skincare brand. I purchased three vegan black soap bars for £2.49 each!!
All three bars are packed with shea butter and organic coconut oil, and infused with different essential oils. It’s been a few days using this product, and I’m, not complaining.
Surprisingly, I did not purchase as much goodies as I thought I would. As I say, I’m an ex-product junkie so these days I try and buy what I need – i.e. black soap.
Prior to attending the event, the word on the street was that some people believed natural hair events were becoming the same – repetitive – and to a degree, I can see some truth in it. There is definitely space in the natural hair community – and effectively, the “black” community – to increase the communication and education around particular hair and beauty issues.
However, from my experience with Curly Treats, I think having such an array of hair and beauty brands, as well as fashion brands, all in the same space is a must! It brings the community together, allows us to support black-owned businesses and share our hair and beauty experiences.
There were some interesting conferences throughout the day, including a session entitled the Seven Wonders of the Womb by Leah Salmon. This was an empowering discussion about the importance of a healthy womb as well as overall health and wellbeing.
There was also an educational session by Afrocenchix where the ladies discussed how to care for our natural hair, dispelling some of the “myths” in the natural hair community which have us mistreating our hair. For example, leaving a leave-in condition on your hair for longer than time it says on the bottle can do more harm than good to your hair.
Having been to AfroPunk a few weeks ago, I was expecting to get a “freedom of expression” through dress kind of vibe, but most people were dressed quite casually – myself included. But nonetheless, everyone I interacted with was warm and friendly.
The last panel discussion was thought-provoking and raised important questions about how “black” people can help their community by reinventing their own standards of beauty which do not adhere to a Eurocentric image of beauty. The panel included Jay & Tri, the women behind Curlture, who stressed the importance of black people needing to invest in the “black” community by buying from black owned businesses. It was evident that many people in the room believed the onus was on black people to take responsibility as individuals for how we help our community.
This discussion really mirrored the discussions I have on my MA Culture Diaspora Ethnicity and has made me further question how I can educate and empower my community.