The FCBG asked K.N. Chimbiri to tell us about her beautiful, informative book, The Story of Afro Hair
Tell us about The Story of Afro Hair…
The Story of Afro Hair, 5,000 Years of History, Fashion and Styles is a little book about the history behind Afro hairstyles. The approach and subject is a bit unique for a children’s book but I hope it works! Readers get an overview of Afro hairstyles throughout history (from ancient, medieval and modern times). It has lots of information that I have never seen in a children’s book before. As well as history there’s a chapter on Afro hair type too. So, I think anyone interested in Black history, hair history or Afro hairstyles might enjoy reading this book even if they’re not a child! The book can be read from beginning to end as a straightforward ‘trip through time’ type of book or it can just be dipped into anywhere! I hope it will be interesting but will also help children to better understand their world…and of course, their hair.
How much research did you do before writing the book?
Loads! So much that this book only contains half of it! I was able to build on the information I had for my 2013 self-published book Secrets of the Afro Comb, 6,000 Years of Art and Culture. That book was written to accompany an exhibition called Origins of the Afro Comb. The exhibition and book focused on African combs more than hair yet many hair enthusiasts loved it. I’ve since felt that it would be good to have a similar book that focuses on the hair. I still had to do a lot of additional research to fill out the gaps in my knowledge.
What is your favourite fact in the book?
That’s a hard one to answer because the book has quite a few less-well-known facts which I enjoyed writing about. I suppose if I had to pick just one (and it’s impossible to pick just one) maybe the example of a type of royal hairstyle worn in Africa in ancient, medieval times and into the 20th century. It was worn in ancient Egypt, Great Benin and into the early 1900s but we don’t see that one being worn today.
What do you want young readers to take away from reading THE STORY OF AFRO HAIR?
Most of all, I would like them to enjoy reading the book. But perhaps, while enjoying the facts it would be great if they can also grasp the why behind the what. I mean get them to think about why people chose to wear certain hairstyles at various times in history.
If you could invite three historical figures to a dinner party, who would you choose and why?
I could never choose just three figures from all history. Even trying to choose just three from THE STORY OF AFRO HAIR is hard. But I’d probably choose three pioneering hair entrepreneurs; the rivals Madam C.J. Walker and Annie Malone and I’d put Tony Wade to sit between them in case they started to argue.
What are your top tips for aspiring writers of non-fiction?
Be like a detective and question everything. And don’t believe anything written on the internet!
The Story of Afro Hair by K N Chimbiri, published by Scholastic is available in bookshops.