Mama Taku's Story
My story began when I was a child, growing up with a kinky afro in Zimbabwe. It was nothing out of the ordinary. The common trend was to keep your hair in plats (that were redone every week) until you were old enough to relax it (around 13 or 14). An unbridled afro was looked upon with disdain and thought of as unruly and untidy.
I didn't put much thought into this until I arrived in New Zealand at 12 years old. Suddenly I was the only black person in my school, with hair that defied gravity and a number of other distinctive features. This otherness triggered in me a deep introspection into my identity and what I had learned about who I was.
My hair was a big part of this inquiry. I realized, I had not actually been taught anything about how to take care of my hair. I had not learned to listen to its needs or nurture it in its expression. Rather, I was taught to be drill sergeant who forced my hair to comply at any cost, through either relaxing it, or endless protective styles - never allowing my hair to just breathe or be itself.
At 22 I decided to stop the madness and cut it off.
Growing my hair back was an unlearning and a re-learning. Initially, I found myself falling back in the same cycle. One day I took breath and thought to myself - what would happen if I actually took proper care of my hair?
That question led to many YouTube videos, Google searches ("how to take care of natural hair for beginners", "what is LOC method"), books, experiments, failures, successes, and, finally, to this moment where I have embraced who I am and I am comfortable sharing my knowledge.
In this small country where blacks are less than 1% of the population, our needs have been forgotten. The long and short of it is hair products for black people are not readily available in a place like New Zealand. Even more so, I feel that we ourselves are unaware of what our hair needs. I get the sense that, like me, many of my compatriots were not taught how to give their hair proper care and to enable it to thrive.
Thus, my mission is twofold. First off - to facilitate more conversations about how to take care of our hair and enable it to thrive in its natural state. Secondly, to service the unrecognized needs of my people by providing high quality, natural, hair products for people with kinky and curly hair.
Toni Morrison writes "if there's a book you want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." Mama Taku's butters is about changing the narrative to one where black women view their hair with a sense of pride, approach their hair care regime with excitement rather than dread, and, mostly importantly, one where we feel comfortable being ourselves and feel at home because someone sees us and recognizes our needs.
We started off with three butters, and we continue to grow. I am realising more and more that there are nuances to our needs and we continue to change and grow to meet these needs.
Each of these butters are handmade with natural ingredients and a lot of love. They are my ode to my people.