Behind the Rebel Roots brand is a team of two: Bonita from Tanzania and Angie from Namibia. They grew up together at school in South Africa and eventually moved to the UK. In this interview, they talk about their hair journeys and entrepreneurship.

The exhibition Connecting Afro Futures. Fashion x Hair x Design presents a generation of African fashion designers who are rethinking contemporary “African fashion”. The fashion installations are complemented by an exploration of hair and fashion in African and Afrodisaporic contexts comprising of fashion and music videos, photographs and illustrations. The Afro Hair District of the exhibition is dedicated to hair and includes a display of numerous Afrohair products – including the products of Rebel Roots. We took this as an opportunity to dive into their story a bit…

You two were school friends and are now business partners, what have been some of the highlights along your journey together?

Bonita & Angie: The idea of Rebel Roots was in the making since the beginning of our friendship. We struggled to find the right hair products for our respective hair, our textures and curls are completely different so one product does not work for both of us. We spent a lot of our time chatting about hair, doing each other’s hair and we used to joke around about creating a business together. The highlight has been transforming our dreams into reality and watching other people use and appreciate our products.

What went into developing your hair-products? What was the starting point and what was important for you in the process?

Bonita & Angie: It was hard as Africans based in Scotland because we struggled to find the right products for ourselves. So we started buying raw ingredients and created our own blends of oils. For our products, we chose the ones that worked best and that we enjoyed using. Rebel Roots was partly about getting people to be proud of their hair, and to enjoy the process of taking care of your hair – this comes from our experience in Scotland.

An important aspect of Rebel Roots products is that it must be natural ingredients that go into them. The ingredients must be blended so that there is a pleasant aroma, something unique in terms of what is already on the market but also something that provides the necessary nutrients to feed the hair and roots for natural hair. In fact, we have different products that is catered for a variety of hair, it is really just about understanding how to apply the products.

What advice was really helpful when you started Rebel Roots?

Bonita: The best advice I was given was ‘not to give up’. Starting a business can be very challenging even though you might have a clear idea of what you would like to achieve, it is very important to remind yourself of why you decided to do it in the first place and to be patient and keep going. If you keep pushing in the right direction, then you will start to see success. I also wish I had been told not to be scared of failure!

Bonita & Angie: When we had launched the products, we wanted to go to the local stores that were based in Edinburgh, we felt extremely confident that we would be positively received by the local hair salons and African stores, however to many of them, we were just another salesmen and initially, they didn’t trust or see the value in our products (some were particularly rude and tried to take advantage of us). We were turned down several times, but that didn’t stop us from trying. We just changed our approach of how to communicate and deliver our products to the vendors, so that they could buy into the ethos and understand Rebel Roots products better.

Who has had the biggest influence on your hair journey?

Bonita: I was very sceptical about watching YouTube videos and seeing other people with amazing hair, I never really believed that mine would turn out to be as nice and easy to maintain. Angie introduced me to some of her hair routines and really helped me to understand how to care for my natural hair. Within weeks she was the one who cut my relaxed hair and I was completely convinced that my hair could also be like the people on the screen. She carved the path for my natural hair journey.

Angie: At the beginning of my hair journey, there were mainly only African American YouTubers doing hair videos. They really opened my eyes to realizing that Black people could grow their hair naturally without the use of chemicals. However, I still had doubts I could achieve goals like them as I was African and didn’t have access to all the products they did. But having my mum mention how I used to have nice hair as a kid before I used relaxers got me curious to try going natural and at the same time, I also wanted to see what my natural hair looked like, cause for most of my life all I knew to have was over relaxed hair.

So, whilst studying abroad I watched loads of hair videos, became a product junky – and at the beginning trying loads of things. But when I got back home in Africa, I only had access to some products and oils so for most of my hair journey it’s been trial and error until I found what worked for me. I stopped obsessing about achieving hair that other people had and just focused on my own hair journey and trying out things that worked for me. I’ve been lazier in recent years with my hair but I kind of already know what works for me. Right now, I’m just enjoying the journey more and using a few oils and products here and there.

What are some of your go-to beauty & hair inspiration sources?

Angie: I only really have one and it’s because I think she’s cool, her fashion style and hair are so motivating and I’ve followed her for the longest time Naptural85, and so I have watched her transitions and she has inspired me from a stylist perspective as well as a blogger/vlogger entrepreneur.

Check out the Rebel Roots products on their website: and keep up with them on instagram: @rebelrootsofficial

Find out more about the exhibition here: Connecting Afro Futures. Fashion x Hair x Design

Connecting Afro Futures.
Fashion × Hair × Design

Funded by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation / Gefördert im Fonds TURN der Kulturstiftung des Bundes


Project Partners / Projektpartner

Kunstgewerbemuseum / Museum of Decorative Arts, Berlin; fluctuating images, Berlin; Fashion Africa Now, Hamburg; Goethe-Zentrum Kampala; Ugandan Arts Trust, Kampala; Wakh’Art, Dakar.