“I want to create a place where blacks in Germany can express their creativity.“
Dr. Stephania Papdo is somewhere in her 30s and ready to take over the Black Community in Cologne. She is from Cameroon and came to Germany for studies in 2003. Today, she is a wife, mother of 3 children, a physician and a gynecologist.
Frolicious: You are the founder of Afro Ô Natural, tell us a bit about this organisation.
Stephania Papdo: AON is a stucture that I founded 2009, as I stopped relaxing my Hair. I am a very convinced christian, and I had a conversation with God and asked him why he created us blacks with crazy natural hair that we can not show like other races, kinky hair that must always be relaxed or hidden under caps and wigs. I used “relaxers” until that day when I lost my permed hair during my first pregnancy. The Answer just came to me and I changed my lifestyle: “I made your hair so beautiful! You are the one who cannot recognise it!” That was the birthday of “Afro Ô Natural“. It started like a small group on Facebook, a channel on youtube to share information and lately the facebook page. I then started to import products for natural hair, and started selling natural oils. Then came the time to move from the virtual to the real world 2014 with the first Event “Celebrate Afro Beauty” which took place on the 09th Auguust 2014. The main purpose af these Events is to show that African can be proud of themselves, and encourage women to wear their natural kinky hair. That is the aim of Afro Ô Natural!
Folicious: This year “The Afro beauty Festival” was held in Cologne. You and your team organized everything.
Stephania Papdo: Yes, the event was on the 18th July in Cologne. It is the second main event that I organised with my group. This year we chosed Cologne and we baptised it as a Festival to touch the huge Afro Community in the NRW, and share the knowledge not only about the natural hair, but also the skin, make-up, Fashion. We wanted to create a platform where every black living in Germany will be proud of himself, and by the way build a stronger self-esteem.
Folicious: How did the audience recieve it?
Stephania Papdo: We got a very good resonance while planning the natural hair and fashin event. We got the support of other active women like Catherine from RYCA, Bonzenga or Nelle-Stern (Made by African). The Event itself was a succes. I did the main exposé on the basics of natural hair-care where I tought how to mix the Shealoe, a mixture of Aloe vera gel, Shea butter and many other oils: it is a very hydrating cream that I mix and sell. We had a make-up Tutorial with Labelle Beauty, 5 Workshops, I did the premiere of my first collection I sewed myself. In addition to this, we had great sellers like Krauselocke (Germany), Eekeya (Paris), Les desirs de Choko, MbokaMboko or Ediyemade. Every participants were happy, they said they have learn a lot and spent quality time. I guess they are waiting already for the next event.
Folicious: Where does the Afro movement in Germany stand compare to France, UK or USA?
Stephania Papdo: We are very far away from the big Afro movements in france or England. We even had some members of the group “Nappy de france” (Paris) all the way to Germany only for that event. Don’t get me wrong: something is happening in the black community in Germany too, but very slowly. Let me explain you why I say it: though everybody was so happy in Cologne, I was bleading in my heart. We planned everything, we had a great program, many likes on facebook. Then I was shocked by the amount of people who came: so many more people were interested on Facebook! So many said they will come. But at the end of the day only a third showed up.
Folicious: How do you explain this?
Stephania Papdo: I guess there are more and more black women in Germany, who are getting back to the roots, who are proud of who they are and want to show “their” Africa to the world. The difficulty will be that we are scattered in many small groups through the country. And that is the main problem: we don’t work together, don’t ask me why. I guess it is an African problem. Everybody is concerned about him/herself, her improvement, her own benefits, her image. We forget that we already have a bad image that we should fight, and the best way to win that battle will be working together. It will take everybody to change the beauty standards! As I love to say, every hair must not be straight, every nose small or every skin fair to be beautiful!
Frolicious: Do you have days where you have to motivate youself to go on?
Stephania Papdo: The day after the event was such a day, where I really had to motivate myself to continue this battle. I was asking myself if it is worth to invest so much time, energy and passion for a cause, that is not even main stream. Days when I see so many black women proud of their wigs more than their own hair, or proud of a good product to bleach their skin. And then I see my daughter. I see her hair growing. I see her smile and her cute face. I see my son with his kinky hair that can grow like girl’s hair. And I get motivated, because I owe it to my kids. We all owe it to our black children, to allow them to develope a strong personality and a good self-esteem.
Frolicious: Although this event did not came out as expected. What would you like to achieve in the future?
Stephania Papdo: I am already planning the next event African inspired event. I want all these events first of all to become a real platform. A place where blacks in Germany can express their creativity, can be proud of their culture, and set their own beauty trends and standards. I want it to be a window that shows the new confident and how proud black people are in Germany. The main focus of these African events will remain the natura hair, beauty and lifestyle workshops, because I strongly believe that the biggest poverty is the lack of knowledge. I want Cologne to become a very important city in the black community worldwide, just as Paris or London.
Frolicous: Is there andything else you would like to add?
Stephania Papdo: I have some good projects I am working on, there is so much that needs to be done! As I said earlier I presented my first collection I designed and sewed myself, and I want to really advertise and commercialise it. I also have the natural hair product made in Germany “Shealoe”. It is the first hydrating leave-in conditionner from Afro ô Natural. It is also at his very early age. In the future I would like to finish the whole hair line for African textured hair, that will have a shampoo, a conditionner, a hairmask (deep conditioner), a leave-in-conditionner and an oil-serum. I want these products with very good and natural ingredients to be available everywhere, especially in Africa to a affordable price. That is the biggest challenge I am facing right now. And I also have my family, my work, as you can see, I will not get bored.
More Images of Afro beauty Festival (Germany):