If we are open to the experience, art in any form can change the way we look at the world. For me, one such work was a column written by Nikiwe Bikitsha in 2010. Headlined "Hanging up my wig", it described Bikitsha's realisation of "what a liberating step I'd taken by putting my fake coif out to pasture". "The decision to retire my wig wasn't prompted by ideology; neither was I influenced by the ebb and flow of the never-ending debate on the politics of black hair; that is: does wearing fake hair mean you have sold out and are...
If we are open to the experience, art in any form can change the way we look at the world. For me, one such work was a column written by Nikiwe Bikitsha in 2010. Headlined "Hanging up my wig", it described Bikitsha's realisation of "what a liberating step I'd taken by putting my fake coif out to pasture".

"The decision to retire my wig wasn't prompted by ideology; neither was I influenced by the ebb and flow of the never-ending debate on the politics of black hair; that is: does wearing fake hair mean you have sold out and are aspiring to be white, et cetera." The full column is online at mg.co.za.

At the time, it rekindled debate about what Bikitsha called "the ever-contentious subject of black women's hair". However, there was nothing resembling the current furore. "Wokeness" and "cancel culture" were not yet in vogue. Nor was VBS looting, for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) was not yet born.

As Bikitsha and others before and after have noted, black women's hair is an emotive issue whose importance should not be downplayed, ever. Nor is it safe territory for males of any hue to mansplain the lived experience of others. But black women's hair has been exploited this week by a macho, violent, racist party seeking attention after disappearing from the headlines during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

Suddenly, the EFF is again all over the media, like a red rash. Indeed, the Clicks advertisement was racist. And the attempts by company top brass to shift the blame are unconvincing. The EFF's disproportionate response was deliberately disruptive attention-seeking, regardless of the consequences for staff and customers, including those dependent on medicines they would normally buy from Clicks.

The reluctance of the courts and police to protect those under threat of attack is worrying in a country where the rule of law is tenuous. Amid the hype about the EFF and Clicks' bad hair day, some important issues have not received enough attention. For example, the economy remains on the junk heap, as confirmed by Statistics South Africa's announcement yesterday on gross domestic product data for the second quarter of 2020.

With millions having lost their jobs or had their pay reduced during lockdown, the EFF is deepening the crisis by threatening the livelihoods of about 15,000 Clicks employees, who had nothing to do with the offending advertisement. In addition, the noise has drowned out discussion about the Democratic Alliance's policy conference, where serious offerings were produced on how to tackle pressing economic and social issues, including redress for the disadvantaged, not for elites.

These policies have not received adequate airing. Yet there has been much coverage for a former provincial leader who, like a former mayor, departed crying racism, in time to avoid formal proceedings within the party. It's just over a year since the former mayor tweeted that he was enjoying his birthday with close friends.

Including the leadership which this week issued the instruction, "ATTACK!" Perhaps we should not judge people by their close friends. Perhaps.

EFF exploits bad hair day


Martin Williams, DA councillor and former editor of The Citizen.

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