Over ten years ago I chose to stop applying straightening chemicals to my hair. I am not sure if it’s because my father constantly told me that the lye in the products was slowing cooking my brains or if I was just tired of the constant upkeep. I started to wear my hair in its natural state. I was surprised by how much people had to say about that. Some said that they admired my bravery. Some viewed it as a sign of financial hardship. Yet others thought I was being rebellious. Suddenly I was confronted with a reality that how I wore my hair meant something to a lot of people and none of them really cared if their assumptions were inaccurate. They all had a stake yet none of they contributed to the upkeep of this ‘community hair’. That is how a personal choice become a social or even political statement.
“It takes three years Natasha’s natural hair to grow in fully. She doesn’t do it to make a political statement. In fact, she liked having her hair straight. In the future, she may like it straight again. She does it because she wants to try something new. She does it simply because it looks beautiful.” ― Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star
One Saturday morning when I was about ten years old I casually told my dad that I wanted to shave all my hair off. This was just as he was heading out to the barber for his routine haircut. I am not sure where my mom was when this plan was hatched, but he agreed to take me along. On the way there I envisioned this blissful future where I could spend my Saturdays playing outside instead of bored in a salon waiting for my turn in the braiding chair. Where my tender head might be brutalized by a heavy handed overworked woman. But mostly time the spent there that was most agonizing. The prospects got better and better as we neared our destination. Two hours later I stared at my shaven round head in the mirror. I was delighted. I clearly remember the horror on my mother’s face when we returned home. She was furious and chastised my father whose only remark was that it was my choice. I left them squabbling and gleefully run outside to play on my first of many many hair-care-free Saturdays.
I am very excited to be taking part in my last group exhibition of the year and hopefully one of many more to come. I wanted to explore the many different faces of a woman by acknowledging her the complexity and uniqueness. Here is an exclusive sneak peek.
My father has always been the natural hair guy. He always appreciated it in its most natural form, free of extensions, attachments and chemicals. A simple afro or a lovely headscarf met with great approval. My mom once told me how he tried to get her to wear a headscarf when they were first married. We both scoffed at it. After-all we were independent women. No one told us when to cover our hair. The truth is that my mother has such amazing cheekbones that head coverings only accentuate them.
A couple of weeks ago I participated in wonderful event known as Headwarps in the Park. It brought vendors, artists, musicians and mostly natural beauty enthusiasts together resulting a very vibrant atmosphere. This whole event was built around the practice of African women warping their heads. The recent resurgence of the appreciation of natural African beauty, fashion and music greatly influenced this event. Preparing for that event had me thinking a lot about hair and head coverings. How the way we choose to wear our hair seems to impact us and others in so many different ways. The next few weeks will feature sketches and stories that explore this idea.
Counting my blessings today.
No storm can last forever. It will never rain 365 days consecutively. Keep in mind that trouble comes to pass, not to stay. Don’t worry! No storm, not even the one in your life, can last forever.
Found this elegant dancer on one of my shopping trips downtown.
‘We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.’