WHY DO BLACK FEMALES FEEL THENEED TO RELAX THEIR HAIR?A VISUAL DISSERTATIONBYEMELINE NSINGI NKOSIBA FASHION TEXTILES2012
CONTENTS PAGE- List of Illustration- Acknowledgements- Introduction- Chapter 1 - History- Chapter 2 - The Film- Chapter 3 - The Psychological and Physical Effects- Conclusion- Terminology- Bibliography- Progress Map- ManifestoPg. 1Pg. 4Pg.6Pg. 8Pg. 23Pg. 27Pg. 31Pg 33.Pg. 36Pg. 43Pg. 54
List of IllustrationsIllustration 1. Suku Fulani Hairstyle, Adeleke A. Abraham (2011) Intermediate Yoruba:Language, Culture, Literature, and Religious Beliefs, United States of America.Trafford Publishing. Available athttp://books.google.co.uk/books?id=DSwJCton8GgC&pg=PA122&lpg=PA122&dq=Suku+Fulani&source=bl&ots=D_ZhHbafuR&sig=Whd6HItiNelfWgy6MZ0-y0IWXTg&hl=en&ei=i1DNTrjFGoSO8gOo_OTSDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Suku%20Fulani&f=falseIllustration 2. Suku Ologede.Adeleke A. Abraham (2011) Intermediate Yoruba: Language, Culture, Literature, andReligious Beliefs, United States of America. Trafford Publishing. Available athttp://books.google.co.uk/books?id=DSwJCton8GgC&pg=PA122&lpg=PA122&dq=Suku+Fulani&source=bl&ots=D_ZhHbafuR&sig=Whd6HItiNelfWgy6MZ0-y0IWXTg&hl=en&ei=i1DNTrjFGoSO8gOo_OTSDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Suku%20Fulani&f=false(Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 3. Fontanel Skull, Africa, Date unknown.Available athttp://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 4. Fontanel Hair on young black boy, Africa, Date unknownAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 5. Mother and child showing Fontanel Hair, Africa, Date unknown.Available athttp://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 6. Ceremony to cut the Fontanel Hair, Africa, Date unknownAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 7. Woman with extensions over head ornament, Africa, Date unknownAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 8. Young Fulani Girl Hairstyle, Africa, Date unknownAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 9. Adolescent Fulani Girl, Africa, Date unknownAvailable at
http://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 10. Unmarried Wolof Girls shaven head, Africa, Date unknownAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 11. Extensions used to extend over a hair structure to add height, used inceremonies, Africa, Date unknown.Available athttp://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 12. Extensions used in dreadlocked styles, Africa, Date unknown.Available athttp://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 13.11.11)Illustration 13. Slavery statue in The Gambia. April 2008Photograph taken by Tracy Jenkins.Illustration 14. Iron Carding Tool by JF, USA, 1863.Available athttp://www.relique.com/antique-1823-ﬂax-comb-hetchel-hatchel-carding-tool-folk-art/(Accessed 14.11.11)Illustration 15. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Mexico Olympics, 1968.Available athttp://www.google.co.uk/imgres?q=1968+olympics&um=1&hl=en&safe=off&client=safari&sa=N&rls=en&biw=1199&bih=726&tbm=isch&tbnid=JFOA4iTHaqnr3M:&imgrefurl=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/08/magazine_enl_1224239304/html/1.stm&docid=xNzYq3h1pubD5M&imgurl=http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/08/magazine_enl_1224239304/img/1.jpg&w=650&h=460&ei=NVjNTv7hDNT38QPQ8qTCDw&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=206&sig=107294841850005000512&page=2&tbnh=161&tbnw=207&start=18&ndsp=17&ved=1t:429,r:12,s:18&tx=94&ty=73(Accessed 14.11.11)Illustration 16. Angela Davis giving a speech, USA, Late 1960sAvailable athttp://www.google.co.uk/imgres?q=angela+davis&num=10&um=1&hl=en&safe=off&client=safari&rls=en&biw=1199&bih=726&tbm=isch&tbnid=JHlq2RjjXVwKHM:&imgrefurl=http://newwavefeminism.tumblr.com/post/3726762223/angela-davis-one-of-time-magazines-most&docid=xszzeu8Y4ng51M&imgurl=http://26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lhr8j2uwRk1qfyo0uo1_400.jpg&w=400&h=278&ei=ZljNTrO1NcuU8gPej9XGDw&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=429&sig=107294841850005000512&sqi=2&page=1&tbnh=171&tbnw=222&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0&tx=138&ty=78(Accessed 14.11.11)Illustration 17a. White Afro, USA, Date unknown.Available athttp://www.google.co.uk/imgres?q=white+man+afro&um=1&hl=en&safe=off&client=safari&sa=X&rls=en&biw=1199&bih=726&tbm=isch&t
bnid=Fi2CnPCE7lKLZM:&imgrefurl=http://www.retrohound.com/vintage-white-man-afro-old-year-book-pics/&docid=shTSkHOoM9Uh-M&imgurl=http://www.retrohound.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/BakerRetroHounddotCom-2.jpg&w=506&h=720&ei=Dm_NTrHuJYOA8wOAtd35Dw&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=327&sig=107294841850005000512&page=1&tbnh=167&tbnw=115&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:8,s:0&tx=35&ty=90Illustration 17b. Robyn Rene Sanders, US Ambassador to Nigeria with dreadlocks,USA, 2007Available athttp://nigeria.usembassy.gov/pr_12112008.html (Accessed 24.11.11)Illustration 18. Woman before damage occurred from a relaxer, USA, 1996Available athttp://thankgodimnatural.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/natural-chic-of-the-week-isabella-brooekhuizen/ (Accessed 24.11.11)Illustration 19. Woman bald from the effects of relaxing hair, Maastricht, 2001Available athttp://thankgodimnatural.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/natural-chic-of-the-week-isabella-brooekhuizen/ (Accessed 24.11.11)Illustration 20. Women with broken/bald areas in her hair, unknown, unknown.Available athttp://akorra.com/2010/03/21/9-reasons-to-avoid-perms-and-relaxers/ (Accessed 24.11.11)Illustration 21. Three year old washing relaxer out “my eye” is hurting, USA, 2009Available athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBoBR20n8S4 (Accessed 24.11.11)Illustration 22. Three year old child having relaxer washed out. USA, 2009Available athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBoBR20n8S4 (Accessed 24.11.11)Illustration 23. Three year old happy when seeing the results of her relaxer. USA, 2009Available athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBoBR20n8S4 (Accessed 24.11.11)
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSI would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped me complete this visualdissertation.First and foremost, I could not say enough thanks to Tracy Jenkins, who has helped mealong the way from day one, without her encouragement and determination, I would nothave been able to get the research going from as early as May. She is not only mydyslexia tutor but also a mentor, motivator and inspiration.Jeremy Barr and Liz McQuiston for the two tutoring lessons at the end of the second yearﬁnal term, once I had decided to go ahead with the visual dissertation.They understood where I wanted to take the dissertation and believed I would be able todo it. Jeremy gave me the conﬁdence following making my own manifesto in the ﬁrst termof second year, and this support allowed me to believe that I would survive a visualdissertation.I would like to say thank you to my dissertation tutor Angela Clarke for letting me run freewith the research and layout of this dissertation and allowing me to explore differentaspects of black hair with her advice and depth of knowledge.I would like to say a special thank you to Orrel Lawrence, a friendship that blossomed froman afternoon of interviews at the International Black Hair Month event, weʼd only met andwe were interviewing 20 minutes after. He gave me the strength to approach keypersonalities that have given depth into my dissertation. Thank you Batman.A huge thank you to Lauren Smith who has done the editing for my visual dissertation,without her, it would not exist, she understood what I wanted and made sure I was ﬁnewith everything she did, she came to a dissertation tutoring when I showed the video andtook mental notes of how she could realise the video accordingly. Thank you Lauren for allthe help you have given me, without you, it would not exist.All of the interviewees that allowed me a bit of their time to ask questions and ﬁlm;Diane Abbott for stopping and talking to mw even if she was on her way home, SylvianneRano and her three children who welcomed me into their home, with warmth andfriendliness, Paulette Harris-German after a long day at the International Black Hair Monthstill managed to let me interview her, Desiree Fraser who let me ﬁlm her, Shola Alaji for
allowing me to question her, Freddie Edwards and Jermaine Gray who were workingtowards a deadline, Chris Johnson helped me a lot at the beginning with ideas and ﬁlmingand let me realise that anything is possible in regards to creating a visual dissertation,Akwasi for letting me have some of his time at the end of a busy second year, Lee Ngungiwho came all the way to Ravensbourne and allowed me to take an afternoon of her time toﬁlm extensively the interview, Pamela who who not deterred by a stranger asking tointerview her on the bus.
INTRODUCTIONSpoken over the video of an outline of my hair- taken in BarcelonaFor as long as I can rememberHair was the bane of my life,to be tamed and controlledRELAXEDwas the wordThe process deemed to solve all my problemsRELAXEDinto submissionRELAXEDinto tameʼnessRELAXED into a lesser self.But recently a question has bothered meWHY do black girls feel the need to relax their hair?Black hair demonstrates “revolutionary genius. Like air conditioning, this frizzy kinky hairinsulates the head from brutal intensity of the sunʼs rays” (Tharps, Byed (2002) pg 1.)I understand that in the UK, this does not seem to be of interest, but surely it should besomething to be proud of.Hair was a way of showing your marital status, age, wealth, religion, ethnic identity andrank in community.Women would spend hours a day dressing their hair, caring for it and cherishing it.Family members weldedWomen together.
Stories shared so tenderlyover kinks and curls of natural hair.Yet burn and hair lossis now the costFor beautyA beauty not of natural causebut one of artiﬁce and vain.Reproach.Reproach to all women who feel they are worthlesswith their natural mane.
Chapter 1 - The HistoryPre-slavery, (circa 1300) Black women would spend a vast majority of their time doing theirown, as well as each othersʼ hair.A time for bonding and sharing, it was one proud moment when hair would be adorned forweddings, village ceremonies or simply to go to sleep as a protective hairstyle, black hairwas cared for in a way that seems archaic in the 21st century.Black hair would be made and manipulated in ways to distinguish your role in society, yourmarital status, your tribe as well as your country, it held such a big part in society, in a wayclothes may possibly do now.Examples can be seen from the Zombo tribes on the border of Angola, where “highcoiffure were worn during circumcision ceremonies” (Zombo Tribe http://www.zyama.com),It was never purely a cosmetic attribute, its social, aesthetic and spiritual signiﬁcance hadbeen a direct correlation to their sense of self for thousands of years, hair was deemed soimportant that the hair was groomed by a family member rather than a stranger because ofthe importance of the task, if hair was the carrier of messages, one could see howimpacted into black culture it would have been.If women left their hair undone, it was a sign that something was not right, in Nigeria, itcould signal a women was habitually dirty, depressed or bereaved, to highlight theimportance in terms of spirituality, hair in Yoruban communities was braided in speciﬁchigh styles as hair was the most elevated part of the body, therefore believed closest to thedivine.It was believed that as the hair was the closest to the heavens, messages would be sentdown through this medium and reach the soul.All of this in HAIR.It could explain the belief that in Voodoo, a single strand of hair is needed. Its impact cantherefore be seen as widespread.
“The Yoruba customarily shave the head on ritual occasions, because the spirits arebelieved to enter and leave a person through his head” (Adeleke, 2011, http://books.google.co.uk/ pg. 117)On reﬂection, it could explain why to have oneʼs hair shaven during slavery almostremoves a self-esteem shell and exposes you to the world, so to say, but in this case tothe spirits.The importance of hair in religious ceremonies can also be seen in cult initiations, ʻthepriest must shave his head with herbal preparation to sensitize it”(Adeleke, 2011, http://books.google.co.uk/ pg. 118), could be seen to be able to connect to the spirits and beable to be in connection to another realm.Illu. 1. Illu. 2.
The hairdresser doing the hair would hold a very special place in community life, the mosttrustworthy.In babies the ʻfontanelʼ hair, the softest area of a childrenʼs head would be kept long, as toprotect the baby from bad spirits. The ﬁrst time a babyʼs hair is cut, a ceremony is held andthe hair is kept by the mother, due to the belief that in the wrong hands, harm may becaused.Whilst males would shave their head, I am focusing on women, and they were expected tokeep their hair long.Illu. 3.Illu. 4.Illu. 5. Illu. 6.
Virtues would be attached to the hairstyles, patience would be shown by the intricacy ofthe hairstyles, it would sometimes be shaved to rub ritual substances into the scalp but themajority of Yoruba women would fashion their hair in crown-like designs, to honour theirʻinner headʼ/ Ori; a belief that your head - ʻOriʼ was the ʻsoul-personalityʼ, they believed thatthe soul was the supreme important and that the head determined the destiny of oneʼs lifeas well as serving as the creator. “The word Ori also signiﬁes personality- soul which isbelieved to be capable of controlling, ruling and guiding the life and all endeavors of a manon earth. A personʼs success and failure in life depends on his or her “Ori” head” -(Adeleke, http://books.google.co.uk/ Pg 110)There are three principle methods of shaping the hair:1) Loose weave or irun biba, a casual and temporary parting and knotting into big buns orcornrows until the styling can be done by a professional.2) Tight weave or irundidi, a detailed plaitingof the hair into uniquedesigns.3) The relatively recentpractice of weaving, irunkiko, using black threadto tie strands of hair intoﬁlaments that are thengathered to form intricatedesigns.Illu. 7.
Adolescent have tight braids,separated by a symmetrical partingand a coiled tufted on either side ofthe headUnmarried Wolof girls, partly shavetheir head whilst leaving a little tuft ofhair on the topYoung Fulani girls wear very tightlong, forehead to neckIllu. 8.Illu. 9.Illu. 10.
Through my research, it was interesting to ﬁnd out that even prior to slavery, wigs andextensions were used to make ornate hairstyles, as some hairstyles were not possiblewithout adding hair, hair and vegetable ﬁbre were used and men would often use theirwivesʼ hair to add length to their own. Importantly they were “African” hairstyles, notwesternised styles.Hair would be used to extendover a structure to add heightIllu.11.
The theme of the hair connecting to the soul and the most high, is continued in Beni, TheYoruba religion, having dreadlocks is seen as being a devotee of olu-kun, the deity ofwater, but being born with this curl requires a life as a priest or priestess.To understand the changes and shifted perceptions of black hair, one must go back to atime where black hair had recently been stripped of its symbolism, shaven like animals, nolonger the proud status symbol it once held, but diminished together with black identity:SLAVERY.Long extensions to add lengthMobalantu of NamibiaIllu. 12.
Slavery would prove to play a major key role in the shifted perception of what black hairwas, if black hair held so much symbolism, to strip it away is to reduce someoneʼs selfworth to nothing.Once arrived, one of the ﬁrst things the slave traders did, if it had not already been doneby the captors, was shave the hair off. Just like prisoners taken in war.It was an unspeakable crime.Anonymous cattle.It was supposedly shaven for sanitary reasons, but the effect was much deeper.It was the ﬁrst step taken to diminish and erase black culture and the relationship betweena black person and their hair.The start to a long lost battle against hair had started.As the British had neither social nor political experience in dealing with slaves, theﬁrst African captives were contracted to work under the same terms as the whiteindentured servants arriving mainly from England, Scotland and Ireland. Afterworking a speciﬁc number of years, the Africans were allowed to buy their freedomand become contributing members of society. In addition owing their scant numberof white females, some European men sought native Americans and black womenfor companionship and eventually had children with them .(Byrd and Tharps, 2002, p. 11)These men had been aliens at home and were aliens in America also, they were not sosteeped in the colour code.“Because English Law at the time declared that children inherited the status of theirfathers, any mixed child with a European father was considered free at birth.”“As the years passed, however, indentured servitude for blacks evolved into a race-basedinstitution called slavery. One by one, laws were put into effect that systematically tookaway the rights of black people, as the British embraced the economic advantage ofslavery.”(Byrd and Tharps, 2002, p. 11)“In 1662 Virginia courts reversed the status-of-the-father clause so that children inheritedthe status of their mother. Now children born slaves were also condemned to slavery”By the early 1770s any person proven with African ancestry, even for as far as 100 years,was considered black, and therefore eligible for be enslaved.(Byrd and Tharps, 2002, p. 11)
Once they arrived on American soil, no time would be accorded to the caring andmaintenance of black hair, what would have taken hours of cherishing and warmexchanges, now was almost non-existent, working the cotton ﬁelds meant being in theheat for long periods of time, often between twelve to ﬁfteen hours a day, seven days aweek and whilst black hair has a tendency to knot itself due to the kinks and bends,leaving it for periods of time would have left it matted and unbearable to care for.Following the strict regiments of slave labour, left no energy or inclination to wish to dooneʼs hair, out of desperation sheep ﬂeece carding tool would be used to untangle the hair,they would wet their hair and use the carding tool to smooth it, imagining a carding toolwith wooden handles and strong steel wire teeth, it is easy to then see how ringwormbecame pervasive among the slave population, as did lice infestation.One simple solution black women had found was wearing cotton sheets over their headsin the style of bandanas, what would have previously been unthought of, for hair was forshowing, their crowning glory was now being hidden in shame, just to hide theshamefulness of the scabs left from infestations. The bandana- ubiquitous in slave culture.Illu. 14.
White propaganda was inevitable, where white reigned, and the colour of your skin as wellas your hair would be the decider between hard intensive labour or being an in-houseservant, envy was to be the result.Slaves who experienced a closer relationship with the white population; cooks, barbers,housekeepers, nurses would often style their hair in imitation of a white style.Having lighter skin meant you could be a Mulatto, where you would have possibly beenan offspring of the ʻMasterʼ, resulting in special treatments and upon the ʻMasterʼsʼ death,possible release and a chance of freedom. It had repercussion of what they could do insociety.The infamous brown paper bag test, saw societies formed of Mulattoʼs bring about a testthat would allow discrimination to entry to places such as churches.The comb test was also introduced; a ﬁne tooth combed would be hung on the entrance ofsocieties and entry would be granted on being able to pass the comb freely through thehair.This was to be the start of an envious cycle, where being lighter equalled straighter hair,therefore the envy of the slaves.In the media, white people were portrayed to be beautiful, before Coco Chanel made thetan popular, even Asian women were using whitening cream to aspire to acquire thatʻperfect porcelainʼ skin, so longed for by everyone, how can black females possibly standon their own two feet with no black role models?Joy DeGruy Leary, a mental health therapist and doctoral candidate studying thetransgenerational trauma African-Americans suffered because of slavery, states;“Before you can subjugate or oppress people you must relabel them as subhuman”(Willis, 2007, http://www.jacksonfreepress.com, p.1)And this was just the beginning of a long battle with identity that I still to this day feel, hasnot been dealt with, once they had demoralised the slaves, the slave owner startedbrainwashing them, it is much easier to control someone once they feel inferior, and thiswas not accidental, it was deliberate, to keep black people ʻin their placeʼ.Black people did rebel and did wear their hair naturally and have ﬂamboyant hairstyles in away to assert their humanity in oppressive conditions.
Over time, black women would ﬁnd ways to try and look after their hair, when the shearamount of slaves you had was no longer good enough and the quality was much moreimportant, owners were reluctant but gave the slaves time for grooming, around the sametime Sundays were allowed to be for rest, this proved the perfect catalyst for the motivationto do oneʼs hair, though this was no longer about cherishing your natural hair but ratherabout trying to obtain STRAIGHT white hair.Many astonishing methods were used to try and straighten black hair,Men would slick axle grease over their hair to straighten it, a wax commonly used at thetime for wagon wheels whilst women would slather “on butter, bacon fat, or goose greaseand then use a butter knife heated in a can over a ﬁre as a crude curling iron”. (Byrd andTharps, 2001, p17).“The most mordant device used to straighten the hair was lye, mixed with potatoes todecrease its caustic nature. This creamy concoction was smeared on the hair and the lyewould straighten the curls. Unfortunately, it could also eat the skin right off a personʼshead” (Byrd and Tharps, 2001, p17).This extreme effort to look white, continues on throughout the modern day, which causesconcerns in regards to whether black women actually realise that they are imitating andfollowing a two century long effort to look more like the slaveʼs white masters.Straight hair also translated into economic opportunity and social advantage, because theʻmulattosʼ would have been more likely to have a free status, due to their ʻwhitenedʼfeatures, resulting in the possibility of acquiring a job. Mulatto equaled straighter hair.Surprisingly when freed slaves would try to escape, the one feature that would be mosttelling of blackness would be their hair over their skin colour.“Jobs, marriage partners, even education were typically predicated on the texture of yourhair and the shade of your skin. Therefore life after slavery for many blacks meantcontinued obsession with straightening the hair and lightening the skin” (Byrd and Tharps,2001, p23)
Has anything changed?The 1960s proved to be an enlightenment against the quest for whiteness.The Civil Rights movement brought about a change in attitudes, the speeches of MarcusGarvey and Martin Luther King still resonate now, Tommie Smith and John Carlosʼ 1968Olympic Black Panther salute caused an uproar in the United States but it worked as animpact and made black people notice that ʻBlack is Beautifulʼ.Illu. 16.Illu. 15
Angela Davis, a black political activist, who was associated with the Black Panthers,proudly wore her hair in an afro, it became the fashion, with wigs being sold and worn bywhites alike.From research, numerous reasons could explain the backlash, the lack of products to lookafter an afro, the time it took to care for it, the invention of a ʻnew and improvedʼ relaxer orthe growth of black women in the media and public eye adhering to a white ideal.Marcus Garvey, a black nationalist, has always acknowledged that racism works byencouraging the devaluation of blackness by black subjects themselves. So by outwardlyIllu. 17a.
showing the desire for white hair by CHEMICALLY relaxing black hair, it is ratherencouraging discrimination, and the go‐ahead to prejudice, because if black people themselves are showing the desire for white peopleʼs hair, then why would it be shockingfor white people to pick up on this inferiority that has been brought on themselves?%But my question is why are relaxers still strongly prevalent in black culture?Which is why I have been out on a quest to ﬁnd out what the reason could be.
Chapter 2 - Case studyLAYOUT OF THE CASE STUDY VIDEOIntertwined in between each clip, seconds of me doing my hair.Very short and snappy throughout the whole video.Highlighted blue- External videos (Secondary research)Internal pressures - Peopleʼs OpinionSylvianne RanoClip of Interview from LeeChelby interviewDiane AbbotFilm of me in Paris getting lured into hairdressers because I ʻneedʼ straight hair to bebeautifulClip from “Black Skin”Male ReactionClip of Interview from LeeLooking at Professionals at Work
Clip from interview with PamelaSylvianne RanoYoung Childrenʼs reaction and opinion on having their hair relaxedChelby InterviewRelaxers gone wrongChelby InterviewWhy do women chose to then go natural?Also include the other video of the hair stylist saying I will not need to relax my hair to get itbraided.Clip from interview with PamelaClip from LeeInterview Sylvianne RanoSylvianne RanoWhilst talking about self-image and pressures, it is often assumed that they come fromexternal sources, such as the media and fashion, but whilst conducting my research, Ifound that most pressure actually comes from within our inner circles.Long after deciding to go natural and being conﬁdent in my choice, I personally foundmyself taken back to the ﬁrst time I had a relaxer and not feeling I had much choice, when
my stepmother, not having seen my natural hair after an extensive long period of time,snarled “What are you thinking of doing with your hair then, when should we relax it?”I was stunned and I think my reaction had taken her back. “Iʼm ... Iʼm keeping my hairnatural”The response was the same, the same excuse that had been used 13 years prior, “But doyou not remember how big your hair was before? How hard it would be to look after?”I shrugged, for I was willing to go through with that, but what about the countless amountof women who feel they have no choice in their decision?I understand the peer pressure that can exist within communities, one video on youtubefrom ʻtoyaboo2ʼ had her distraught because she could not understand why her mother andher friends were so against her ʻgoing naturalʼ, she had enough of CHEMICALLYstraightening her hair.%Another lady on The Tyra Banks show, whoʼs daughter had ʻgone naturalʼ would notintroduce her daughter to anyone, BECAUSE of her hair.% %What hurts the most is to see my younger sister of ten, go through such a bad time inregards to her hair, just because it has been relaxed, she has had to endure hairbreakage, as well as burns and most importantly, does this already create a sense of selfhatred?
VIDEOI originally had the video in the PDF ﬁle but the size exceeded the upload limit of 100MBas my ﬁle was over 300MB.After countless efforts to reduce this size and succeeding as well as contactRavensbourne I.T services whom referred me to google.I have uploaded the video on Vimeo and here is the link:http://vimeo.com/32669178
Chapter 3 - Psychological Effects and Damage to the Hair.Is there a psychological aspect or is it just vanity?“Beauty is attainable, often at a signiﬁcant cost, but at the same time we must also be waryof the entrapments of artiﬁce in order to avoid accusations of vanity” (Ebong, 2001 p. 22).From the interviews I conducted, it seemed that the majority of black females understandthat there is a form of ʻbeautyʼ and ʻcodeʼ to having straightened hair, regardless ofwhether you are happy and satisﬁed with your natural hair “we can have whatever hair welike just so long as we remember the long, the straight, the ﬂickable is still the ideal” (Tate.2009, p. 22).“Mama ﬁxed our hair” (Ebong, 2001, pg 18). The use of the adjective ʻﬁxedʼ, as though it isan object that needs to be repaired, changed, altered because it is not ʻworkingʼ properlyor not doing what you want it to do rather than what you think it is supposed to do, makesme angry. Black hair is not something that needs to be ﬁxed, it came this way, ratherrelaxed hair should be the cause of concern, reproachably, it should be ﬁxed, which isironic as it is ﬁxed into such a way that it cannot be undone.Forever those kinks and curls ʻﬁxedʼ into a state of fraud.Interviewing Sylvianne Rano, gave an insight into other cultures of Black heritage, wherein some cultures for example Congolese, hair is relaxed from as young as ﬁve years old, inthe French Caribbean, relaxing your hair would be a sign of maturity and coming of age, itseems therefore harder to remove the relaxing process from society due to the positiveconnotations to becoming a woman.“To arrive at that point where oneʼs hair could be straightened was to move from beingperceived as a child (whose hair could be neatly combed and braided) to being almost awoman. It was this moment of transition my sisters and I longed for” (Ebong, 2001, page18)
In America, there were movements like the Rastafarians, who were inspired by MarcusGarveyʼs teachings and focused on natural hair among other factors and whilstRastafarians will not be my main focus it is important to mention Robyn Rene Sanders thecurrent US Ambassador to Nigeria, for wearing a natural hairstyle in the form of locks,when the ﬁrst black, ﬁrst lady is wearing her hair relaxed, it is encouraging to see thatthere is a role model in a high position that is proudly not conforming to white hairstyles.What must be remembered is that using a RELAXER, is merely putting a sodiumhydroxide paste on your hair, a paste so strong in alkaline that it burns right through a canof coke in four hours and disintegrates it!In the ﬁlm “Good Hair” by Chris Rock, he goes to speak to professor Barry, who afterexplaining and showing Chris, the effects, for it can burn a hole through a chickenʼs leg, isstunned to ﬁnd out that this is put on black hair to straighten it.Illu.17b.
Isabella Broekhuizen, a model, has seen the damages ﬁrst hand, surely when a relaxerleaves you permanently bald or with broken hair, it would make women stand up andrealise that this is not normal.Whether people realise it or not they are conforming to a white beauty ideal.What is interesting is that who has good hair and bad hair depends “on who was doing thelooking and giving value to oneʼs hair” (Tate, 2009, pg 41) Which goes back to why blackfemales feel the need to relax their hair, a white person would not look at your hair and sayyou have “Bad” hair, only those closest to you would do, it goes back to internal factorsand pressure.One would relax their hair because they have “bad” hair, as decided by their peers.An episode special of The Tyra Banks Show, dedicated to relaxed and natural hair, saw amother relaxer her THREE YEAR OLD daughters hair.Illu. 21.Illu. 22.
This is how at the age of nine, I came to have my ﬁrst relaxer, I did not decide that I had“bad” hair, nor at that age, would I have had a clue about what a relaxer could and woulddo to my hair but that day when I sat in the car and was told that we were going to relaxmy hair, and was explained what it would entitle. I felt a slight growing feeling ofapprehension and excitement. Because I would have wishy washy white hair.Hair is so important because our self-esteem is wrapped up in it.Why do black females feel the need to relax their hair?Could it be to feel that they belong in society? To ﬁt in with the crowd and the rest of blacksociety? Is it a fashion statement, in the sense that I can do whatever I wish? Or is it adeep-rooted inferiority issue that stems back to slavery and wanting to look like yourcaptivator?Illu. 23.
ConclusionI feel%there is too much stigma on the whole subject of notCHEMICALLY relaxing your hair, almost as if those who decide to have their hairnatural either do not care or look after themselves or are either feminist, aggressive andalmost black extremist, reminiscent of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and the Black Panthermovement. Women with CHEMICALLY relaxed hair on youtube were commenting back, “why shouldwe wear the same hair our grandmothers wore”, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBoBR20n8S4, 2009) others replied claiming that now we havethe resources to change our hair texture, why shouldnʼt they.% "There seemed to be a lot of comments about the acceptance of natural hair and howmany of the women get complimented, but it wasfrom their entourage and from other black people that they found they were gettingresistance%and negative comments.%One question I could not stop myself from thinking was, why is it that they feel theyHAVE to get away from this texture of hair thatreminded them of their slave ancestors?%Slavery was not a willing action; it is not because of slavery that it is normal to wearCHEMICALLY relaxed hair.% "Black people had natural afro hair before slavery, and I donot understand why the end of slavery should mean the end of natural hair? Surely itis liberating to be able to wear your natural hair, after such a longoppression, to be able to know that this one cultured aspect is left in such a westernisedworld.%
There seems to be a sense of pride attached to hair, where distinction of an era can beseen from pre-Raphaelitesʼ signature long wavy hair, to thestart of the liberation of women with the short 20s bob, will CHEMICALLY relaxedhair be the deﬁning point in the denial of black history?% %One ʻyoutuberʼ said;% % “When you know more about your hair, you know more about yourself” – (Whoknew06,2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PK0sW9nyTo). "Since doing the research for this dissertation I have come to the conclusion that blackfemales feel the need to relax their hair for varying reasons, from the practicality to vanitythat is portrayed in the media, but also because it is engrained in the black culture. Wherea rite of passage is connected to this straightening process.During this journey I contemplated changing my views on certain occasions but I still sit onthe natural fence.The history factor of my research drew me to ask questions that a lot of people aredismissing as the past; if black people have always aspired to a straighter hair to emulatethe slave owners, yet this has not changed, though the reasons may have, how can wesay we have moved any further from the past.I have been told that the past is in the past but how can one dismiss the fact that thoughwhat happened in the past should stay there, black society has not changed in its goalsand aspirations in modern day.As Diane Abbott mentioned “Itʼs horrible, itʼs like things have gone backwards since the1980s, we need to have a debate about what these things really mean, we need to almostgo back to the black is beautiful debate. Because if you donʼt feel good about yourself as ablack woman, you donʼt feel good about yourself as a black person.” (Abbott, Authorʼs ownvideo 30/10/11).Letʼs feel good about ourselves as natural black women like God intended us to be.For Black is Beautiful.
TerminologyRelaxerA term coined to indicate the process used to chemically straighten Afro hair, it loosens thekinks and curls by breaking the protein bonds (disulﬁde bonds) inside the hair shaft.A relaxer is very high on the PH Scale, making it range between 9 and 14 on the Alkaliescale, when hair should be around 5.Once this has been broken the smoothing movement of the hair with ﬁngers, moves thesebonds in a way to straighten them, it is the neutralisation of the hair with acidic shampoothat ʻsetsʼ the hair.The mixture has progressed a long way from itʼs original formula of lye and potatoes , itnow contains Sodium Hydroxide, a substance that can disintegrate a can of coke in fourhours!Zombo TribeA tribe living near the border of Angola. Historically known to be linked with the KongoKingdom, best known for their music but also worked in the slave trade. The Zomboeconomy is now based on hunting and farming.Yuruban TribeThe tribes homeland is in Southwest Nigeria. Adjoining with parts of Benin and Togo. It isclosely related to the Yoruban Religion, whom believe in deities, spirits and ancestorworship.Fontanel hairThe plates in new born childrens heads are divided into four, helping the birthing process.These plates close later on with the formation of bone. The opening in the skull are seen insome tribes as a ʻweakʼ point where evil spirits may enter, for this reason hair is left togrow and cover this area.Fulani [Girls]There is a wide confusion about the nature of Fulani ethnicity as they are wide spread froman area that stretches from Ouadaï, a city east of Lake Chad, to Senegals Atlantic shore.There are groups of Fulani as far east as the border of Ethiopia.Wolof [Girls]A tribe spread over Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania, predominantly of Suﬁ MuslimreligionWolof is strongly linked to Fulani in structure with minor Arabic inﬂuence.ExtensionsSynthetic or natural hair that is added to braids or is sewn or glued into either a head thathas been cornrowed ﬂat or glued in between hair at the roots. To add length.
This was ﬁrst seen in Africa, where Extensions would be added to add height to hair stylesand length to braids and dreadlocks.MulattoA Mulatto is a light skinned black person who is either mixed race or is lighter in skin tone.Socially in the 19th century, Mulattoʼs would have had a better chance at having a life,rather than live as slavesSome were light enough that they would pass as white, fearing when they may have toreveal to their husbands or wife, that their offsprings will not necessarily be white.Mulattoʼs would often be children of slave owner and slaves, for this reason they would behouse-slaves or in lucky instances, be free.Field slaves would often try to emulate the Mulattoʼs which can be a reasoning for thequest to ʻwhiterʼ features, such as straight hair.Lyelye [laɪ]n1. (Chemistry / Elements & Compounds) any solution obtained by leaching, such as thecaustic solution obtained by leaching wood ash2. (Chemistry / Elements & Compounds) a concentrated solution of sodium hydroxide orpotassium hydroxideLye was commonly used and still is to this day in relaxers to chemically straighten Afrohair.(http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lye) Accessed 23.11.11Marcus GarveyBlack Nationalist in early 20th Century who believed that Black people should empowerthemselves through force but also about making an African state.He believed Black people should go back to Africa.Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association.Malcolm X was deemed to have been inﬂuenced by Marcus Garvey.Black Panther PartyA movement founded from attempts deemed un-successful of Martin Luther Kingʼs non-violent methods, it was quoted that though Blacks now had rights and could go into aburger joint, they could not AFFORD to buy a burger.It was and African- American revolutionary leftist organisation.Only active for six years between 2966 and 1982.The conﬂicting contradictory views within the group were to be the end of the BlackPanther movement.
Angela DavisBlack Female American socialist, philosopher, political activist and primarily known forbeing part of the Black Panthers.Her afro was to become her trademark and a sign of recognition for the late Civil Rightsmovement and stood for Black beauty and change.ʻGood HairʼSocially referred in the black community when describing straight movable hair that haswhite characteristics.ʻBad HairʼThe opposite to good hair.Hair that is natural, kinky, curly, messy and does not move.
Dissertation BibliographyBooksFanon, F (1952) Black Skin, White Masks, New York, Grove PressLori L. Tharps, Ayana D. Byrd, (2) Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair, SaintMartins Press Inc.; Reprint edition (1 Aug 2002)Liong-A-Kong, M Going Natural; How to Fall in Love with Nappy Hair [Paperback] SabiWiri Inc; 1 edition (28 April 2006)Davis-Sivasothy, A (2009) Black Beauty: Aesthetics, Stylization and Politics Surrey,Ashgate Publishing LimitedEbong, A (2001) Black Hair: Art, Style and Culture, New York, UniverseCollins, P%(2000) Black Feminist Thought:%Knowledge, Consciousness, and thePolitics of%Empowerment,%Second edition,%New York and London, Routledge% %Owusu, K (2000) Black British Culture and Society, London and New York, Routledge%ArticlesPool, Hannah. (2011) ʻCornrows? Non-traditional? What rubbishʼ The Guardian. Friday 17June [Online] Available athttp://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/17/cornrows-black-traditional-hairstyle(Accessed 18th of September)
Willis, Latasha. (2007) “Baltimore Police Department has racially insensitiveapperance policy” Jackson Free Post. January 1 [Online] Available athttp://www.jacksonfreepress.com/index.php/site/comments/baltimore_police_department_has_racially_insensitive_appearance_policy/(Accessed 29th of October)FilmsFor Colored Girls. (2010) Directed by Perry Tyler. [Motion Picture] Canada, MaplePictures.Good hair. (2009), Stilson, Jeff, [Documentary] United States, Chris Rock Entertainment.Roots, (1977) Chomsky J. Marvin [Tv mini series] United States, American BroadcastingCompany (ABC).The Secret Life of Bees. (2008) Directed by Prince-Bythewood Gina. [Motion Picture]Worldwide, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.VideoDARK GIRLS, (2011) D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke, [Documentary] TorontoInternational Film Festival, Duke media and urban winter entertainment. Viewed via:http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=24155797&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_por(Accessed 18th September 2011)BlogsAkinnusi, Dami (2011) ʻ Anthony Mackie asks who are we, as Images of Black WomenFilm Festival provides answerʼ 17 March 2011. Available athttp://www.darkling.tv/blog/2011/03/anthony-mackie-asks-who-we-are-as-images-of-black-women-ﬁlm-festival-provides-answer/ (Accessed 16th of May 2011)
Moore, Nicole “Shangwe” (2011)ʻMy Nappy Rootsʼ 27 March 2011. Available athttp://www.shawana-lulu.blogspot.com/ (Accessed16th of May 2011)The Style Blazer (2011) ʻThe Long, The Fake, The “Beautiful”: Why are Black WomenObsessed with Weaves?ʼ 22 June 2011. Available athttp://styleblazer.com/11384/the-long-the-fake-the-beautiful-why-are-black-women-obsessed-with-weaves/ (Accessed 29 of July 2011)Wiley, J, Arlo (2009) ʻMovie Review: Good Hairʼ 14 November 2009. Available athttp://blogcritics.org/video/article/movie-review-good-hair/ (Accessed 18 November 2011)WebsitesAdeleke A. Abraham (2011) Intermediate Yoruba: Language, Culture. Literature, andReligious Beliefs [Online] Place unknown.Available athttp://books.google.co.uk/books?id=DSwJCton8GgC&pg=PR13&dq=Yoruba+Hairstyles:+As+means+of+Social+and+Religious+Signiﬁcance&hl=en&ei=YX_OTvy4A4m-8gPZw-jgDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Yoruba%20Hairstyles%3A%20As%20means%20of%20Social%20and%20Religious%20Signiﬁcance&f=false (Accessed 10/11/11)Avery, Luther (2010) 9 Reasons to avoid perms and relaxers [Online] Place unknown.Available athttp://akorra.com/2010/03/21/9-reasons-to-avoid-perms-and-relaxers/ (Accessed 24/11/11)International Black heritage Monthhttp://www.internationalblackhairitagemonth.com/#! (Accessed 30/7/2011)International Black heritage Monthhttp://www.blackeconomicdevelopment.com/international-black-hairitage-launches-month-global-events/ (Accessed 13/10/11)
Smith, Angel (2011) Hair Style Ideas [Online] London. The Natural Lounge a UK Websitefor Afro Naturals. Available athttp://www.thenaturallounge.com/2011/09/hair-style-idea.html (Accessed 29/9/2011)Zombo Tribehttp://www.zyama.com/zombo/index.htm (Accessed 14/11/11)YouTube633390 (28th September 2009) Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary- Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome(1/19) [Online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rQjVZX6jzc (Accessed 24/11/11)Gerrekalenea2010 (2nd may 2011) Weaves versus natural hair part 1 [Online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ3SkVB_gUk&feature=related (Accessed 11/9/11)GoddessOfBeauty89 (15th September 2009) my white boyfriend judges my natural hair[online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liQlidg0h2I&feature=related (Accessed 25/9/11)Himay10nence (24th of January 2011) Fuck this natural hair shit!! (part one) [Online] USA.Available athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XGq18RKM2w (Accessed 20/06/11)localnorganic (2nd March 2011) interracial couple talk :Natural Hair [online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rsd2oz4gf2U&feature=related (Accessed 11/9/11)
Megami284, (17th of May 2009) What is good hair? - Tyra (Part 3) - The Tyra Banks show,ʻAfrican American Womenʼs hairʼ (Recorded May 12, 2009, WWOR)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBoBR20n8S4 %Ms Vodou (11th August 2009) Black Manʼs View on Natural Hair [online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Z8YCUb4nGo&feature=related (Accessed 24/9/11)Naptural85 (15 August 2009) My Natural Hair Journey [online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?src_vid=PKw3XlopZdM&annotation_id=annotation_225687&v=mVRHv_sRPm8&feature=iv (Accessed 25/9/11)Napturals85 (20th November 2009) Quick and easy Wash and Gos Pt1 [Online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_68982&src_vid=PKw3XlopZdM&v=ZUuVHLf3-w4&feature=iv(Accessed 26/9/11)OnixIsis (23rd May 2009) African Hair and itʼs signiﬁcance: Connecting to our Spirit[Online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/user/OnixIsis#p/u/53/n2_YKVqdVyg (Accessed 26/9/11)TVInformative (17th March 2011) Episode 5: “What Black men think about Black womenʼshair” [online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1g98KupXcy8&feature=related (Accessed 25/9/11)Whoknew06 (5th December 2009) Re” Natural Hair in a processed World [Online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PK0sW9nyTo (Accessed 5/12/10)
InterviewsAbbott, Diane, First black female MP, 30 October 2011, “Hair is not just style”, Diane talksabout how hair is not just hair and is also political.Alaji, Shola, Ravensbourne Student, 16 May 2011, “Why do you relax your hair?” Sholatalked about her varying hairstyles and the practicality of it.Edwards Freddie, Producer/Director, 16 May 2011, “Is there pressure to conform in theblack community?”Fraser, Desiree, Business Growth Training & Consultancy, 30 November 2011, “Is hair achallenge for black”, believes it is more about self-esteem.Gray, Jermaine. Student/Dj, 16 of May 2011 “What do you think of natural Hair?”Harris-German, Paulette. 30 October 2011, Her experience and opinion on hair.Johnson, Chris. Ravensbourne student, 27 June 2011, “Why do you think women relaxtheir hair?” Opinions on his own hair and womenʼs hair.Akwasi, Ravensbourne student, 23 June 2011, “Are women going back natural?” Touchingon menʼs hair.International Black Hair Month event panel discussion, Angie Le Mar, Margot Rodway-Brown, Regina Kimbell, Paulette Harris-German and Rudi Page, black hair industryinsiders, 30 October 2011, After a screening of ﬁve short ﬁlms regarding hair, there was aQuestion and answers session and a panel discussion.Nsingi Nkosi, Chelby. Younger sister, 10, August 2011, Casual conversation about relaxersgoing wrong.
Ngungi, Lee. Ex Ravensbourne Student, 12 October 2011, Her opinion on relaxed hair andwhy women feel the pressure to conform.Pamela, lady on the bus, 16th October 2011, Pamela was interviewed on the bus followingmy compliment regarding her hair.Rano, Sylvianne, 15th November 2011, “What is your opinion on Black women Relaxingtheir hair”Rano, Her three Children, 15th November 2011, “Views on Relaxed hair”Visual Video CreditationDuke, Bill and Berry, D.Channsin (2011) The Ofﬁcial Dark Girls Movie Website [Online]USAAvailable athttp://ofﬁcialdarkgirlsmovie.com/about/ (Accessed 11/11/11)Realityseekers, (23rd June 2009) Malcolm X (ﬁlm) Part 1 [Online] USA.Available athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mjd_9cpXIF8 (Accessed 10/11/11)Souldulbeauty101, (15th August 2010) Malcolm X (No Water) Perm scene [Online] USAAvailable athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70RbTy6G5qU (Accessed 11/11/11)All other videos, Authorʼs own.
Progress MapWednesday 11th of MayBuy:The life of bees, DONE AND WATCHEDGood hair, DONE AND WATCHEDandHair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair. DONE AND READThe Souls of Black men DONE AND HALF READFriday 13th of MayLook at the Adornement page on facebook, get as many links as possible DONEMonday 16th of MayHold two interviews; Jermaine Gray and Freddie Edwards at 13:30 DONELook for more interviews and get numbers DONEHave managed to get permission fromL Reid (Lecturer) Who will also contact his aunt who is part of the Afro/CaribbeanHairdressing committee NO RESPONSELee Ngungi Brown INTERVIEWEDJeremy Ulysses INTERVIEWEDElom Agagah INTERVIEWEDChris Johnson INTERVIEWEDPrince Yiadom INTERVIEWEDAkwasi Poku INTERVIEWED
I will be organising Interview for the 23rd and 24th of May DONEWATCH The secret life of bees DONETuesday 17th of MayEmail all the interviewees, Organising the dayBook a camera from CLREmail the questions to Stefan Wade (His Management team need to approve) NOLONGER RELEVANTThursday 19th of May and Friday 20th of MayEmail all the other interviewers, to ﬁlm before the end of June.This includes all the media personalities like:KOJO, AWAITING RESPONSETyra Banks, TRYING TO GET HOLD OF HERAmy DuBois Barnett, TRYING TO GET HOLD OF HERTheo Kerlin, NO LONGER NEEDEDShawana Lulu, CONTACTEDNorma, AWAITING RESPONSEMargot Rodway-Brown (Salon Director). AWAITING RESPONSESunday 22nd of MayOrganise questions for the interview.What do I want to ﬁnd out?I will start to organise what days I should interview the media personalities.Start reading Hair Story if it has been delivered by now.Tuesday 24th of May and Thursday 26th of May
Interview Students and the public.Thursday 9th of JuneInteview media personalities, if they are available.Interviews days include:Monday 13th of JuneFriday 17th of JuneMonday 20th of juneTuesday 21st of JuneFriday 24th of JuneAfter this date I will need to borrow a camera from someone as CLR will be shut.Over the summer.Continue reading and watching videos and going to as many events as possible.I will attend an Afro/Caribbean club to see what people think of Black females hair.12th OctoberInterview with Lee- Black womenʼs experience of Natural hairEmail course leader at SOAS- Can he get help? - Replied but no help.From: %Lutz Marten <firstname.lastname@example.org>%Subject: %Re: Dissertation% Date: %6 October 2011 09:52:42 GMT+01:00% To: %Emeline Nsingi Nkosi <email@example.com>Dear Emeline
Thanks for your email! I am afraid I cant think of anyone at the moment. Its a great topic,and there are quite a few books in out library which look relevant, but I dont think there isanyone working on it that I know of. Shame, I will keep it in mind and let you know if I hear of a student project which is relatedto yours.With best wishes!Lutz13th OctoberEmail Margot, see if I can ﬁlm on sunday DONE - EmailGo to SOAS to research on the two books; Black Hair: Art, Style and Culture and BlackBeauty; Aesthetics, Stylization, Politics. DONENotes from SOAS:Why do Black Females feel the need to Relax (Chemically straighten) their hair?Notes:From the book Black Hair, Art, Style and Culture“I asked my mother why since colored people were the only people on the planet with hairlike that, why would they want to straighten it?” - Hilton Alps, HairstylistTo have just one factor that distinguishes us from the rest of human civilisation and toirreparably change it, to me does not comprehend logic.Is there a psychological aspect or is it just vanity?“Beauty is attainable, often at a signiﬁcant cost, but at the same time we must also be waryof the entrapments of artiﬁce in order to avoid accusations of vanity”From the interviews I conducted, it seemed that the majority of Black Females understandthat there is a form of ʻbeautyʼ and ʻcodeʼ to the having straightened hair, regardless ofwhether you are happy and satisﬁed with your natural hair “we can have what ever hair welike just so long as we remember the long, the straight, the ﬂickable is still the ideal” (Tate.p22)
“Mama ﬁxed our hair” (Ebong pg 18) The use of the adjective ʻﬁxedʼ, as though it is anobject that needs to be repaired, changed, altered because it is not ʻworkingʼ properly ornot doing what you want it to do rather than what you think it is supposed to do, makes meangry. Black hair is not something that needs to be ﬁxed, it came this way, rather Relaxedhair should be the cause of concern, reproachably, it should be ﬁxed, which is ironic as it isﬁxed into such a way that it cannot be undone.Forever those kinks and curls ʻﬁxedʼ into a state of fraud.“to arrive at that point where oneʼs hair could be straightened was to move from beingperceived as a child (whose hair could be neatly combed and braided) to being almost awoman. It was this moment of transition my sisters and I longed for” (page 18)“During the late 1800ʼs the issue of beauty was discussed predominantly by middle classmen and African- American intellectuals championed hair in itʼs natural state as thepreferred style. That Began to change at the beginning of the twentieth century as BlackWomen beauty entrepreneurs began to create alternative representations ﬁrmly locatedwithin the context of African-American culture and straight hair became the preferredtexture to signal middle class status in the mid-1920ʼs” (tate pg 36)I understand there were movements like the Rastafarians, which were inspired by MarcusGarveyʼs teachings and focused on natural hair among other factors but I will not befocusing on this, and will be looking at America“When we can see so many different styling options in everyday life, why think about beingnatural at all?” (Tate pg 40)Whether people realise it or not they are conforming to a white beauty ideal.What is interesting is that who has good hair and bad hair depends “on who was doing thelooking and giving value to oneʼs hair” (Tate pg 41) Which goes back to why Black femalesfeel the need to relax their hair, a white person would not look at your hair and say youhave “Bad” hair, only those closest to you would do, it goes back to internal factors andpressure.One would relax their hair because they have “bad” hair, as decided by their peers.This is how at the age of 9, I came to have my ﬁrst relaxer, I did not decide that I had “bad”hair, nor at that age, would I have had a clue about what a relaxer could and would do tomy hair but that day when I sat in the car and was told that we were going to relax my hair,and was explained what it would entitle. I felt a slight growing feeling of apprehension andexcitement. Because I would have wishy washy white hair.In the evening, taken pictures of words for the contents page,-Deﬁnitions.Try out speaking over the top of the ﬁlm I took in Barcelona. DONE16th October
Have messaged Sylvianne Rano from IBFI DONE AND AWAITING REPLYGo to Adornment to have my hair cut - Ask permission to ﬁlm women talking about hair.Interviewed a woman (PAMELA) with natural hair on the bus DONEGet in contact with Regina K - Director and producer of My Nappy Roots DONE - havegone through linkedin, asking Fiona Jenvey to put me in contact.LinkedInINTRODUCTION: YOU HAVE A NEW MESSAGEFrom: Fiona JenveyDate: October 19, 2011Subject RE: Visual DissertationHi EmelineWhilst I am not directly connected to Regina, I have forwarded your introduction via mynetwork. You may find that using the InMail option on linkedin and sending her a directmessage is more likely to receive a response.Good luck~Fiona20 OctoberTo this day, I am awaiting response fromMargot Rodway-Brown,Norma,I am awaiting reply from a student who may be possibly helping meDear Lauren,Can you read the email below. This is a fashion student who is interested in a studenthelping with her visual dissertation. It would be great if you could email her.
Emeline Nsingi Nkosi <firstname.lastname@example.org>I was thinking of you because of your interest in fashion.Kind Regards,Caroline Orme---------- Forwarded message ----------From: Emeline Nsingi Nkosi <email@example.com>Date: 12 October 2011 07:54Subject: Visual Dissertation helpTo: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.comI was wandering if you would be able to help?(I had sent this email at the weekend, but I dont believe it arrived)On 9 October 2011 13:06, Emeline Nsingi Nkosi <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:Hello Caroline,I am a third year doing a visual dissertation and will be needing post-production help.A student, Chris Johnson has offered to help.Speaking with Jeremy and Liz in the summer, I believe it may be possible for the work to possibly go towardssome credits?How could I go about doing this?Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to your replyEmeline Nsingi NkosiThird Year Fashion Textiles30th OctoberThe Black Hair Films Series, Debate & workshop - Showing of My nappy roots amongstother ﬁlmsI have received a reply from Lauren who said she will be able to help.
30th OctoberAttended: The Black Hair Films Series and Debate.Filmed the Panel discussion with Angie Le Mar, Margot Rodway-Brown, Regina Kimbell,Paulette Harris-German and Rudi Page, black hair industry insiders.Interviewed a young gentleman who wished to remain as the annonymous man.Interviews Desiree Fraser, Diane Abbott and Paulette Harris German.Spoke to Regina Kimbell, who said she would message me.I replied back, but she has never replied back.
15th NovemberInterviewed Sylvianne Rano, who was fascinating and her children seemed to know wherethey stood, which was interesting at such a young age.16th NovemberThis was sent to Lauren to extract videos from.VIDEOS OF EXAMPLES OF RELAXER (VIDEO)
Video of Malcolm X getting his Hair relaxedhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mjd_9cpXIF8At 05”23 - 05”43 ends got to make it straight.Then at 05”52 - 06”05http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70RbTy6G5qU :)0”08 - 0”16 After Iʼm almost ﬁnishedCHILDRENʼS ATTITUDE ... (DEF SHOW VIDEO) :)http://ofﬁcialdarkgirlsmovie.com/02”44 “ Show me the good looking child .... TO02”52 Until she points and says “because she light skinned”SLAVERY (VOICE ONLY)04”32 Of course it started with slavery... but I think we kept the vicious cycle goingTO04”36 before the guy comes onGOOD HAIR VS BAD HAIR (VOICE Over the picture of the magazine cutting alreadyin video) :)06”22/23 - 06”26 “She got that good hair too.”WITHIN THE COMMUNITY (VOICE)06”44 “ I wanted to wear a FRO might be too much to take the video also?TO05”52 “exactly what it looks like”RACISM WITHIN THE COMMUNITY (VOICE ONLY possibly the picture of the ﬁeldslaves) :)07” 54 “ The racism TO08”07 vs the ﬁeld n...
SOMEONEʼs REACTION TO NATURAL HAIR (VIDEO) :)07”00 “It doesnʼt look clean”TO07”11This was not done.20th NovemberGo to a hair salon and see how women feel about relaxing their hair. - DID NOT HAVEENOUGH TIME TO DO THIS22nd NovemberResearch hair damage by relaxers.“If you think using no lye relaxers are less damaging than those containing lye, think again.There are two basic types of chemical hair relaxers – Sodium Hydroxide (relaxerscontaining lye) and Guanidine Hydroxide (relaxers containing no lye). The manufacturersof these products want you to believe that no-lye relaxers will not damage your hair. This issimply not true.The truth is those stunning pictures you see on the relaxer kits of black women with silkysmooth hair are usually individuals who already have a good grade of hair. Donʼt be fooledinto thinking a mere $10 for a home relaxer kit will give you the same look; it is not thatsimple. There is only one full proof method to avoid hair breakage from chemical relaxersand that is to avoid them. Relaxers permanently alter the natural pH balance and chemicalbreakdown of your hair. This process weakens each strand of hair. Hair breakage andscalp irritation are common side effects from relaxing or perming your hair and is not asolution for hair that is damaged despite what you may have heard.”(http://akorra.com/2010/03/21/9-reasons-to-avoid-perms-and-relaxers/) (Accessed22/11/11)22 NovemberFound a video on youtube named the post slavery trauma syndrome by Dr. Joy DeGruyLeary, not sure it ﬁts into the overall feel of the dissertation, but very interesting. -Psychological side of the argument.
My Visual Dissertation was elaborated from the inspiration of an earlier work ofmine; My Maneifesto, written at the end of 2010.
My Mane’ifesto. I never seemed to care about what I ate, what I drank or let alone what I put on my head, for my hair was just that, on my head. Nothing more, nothing less. The generation of “you are what you eat” never appealed to me, mum cooked, I played. That is, until I came to uni, ate myself 2 sizes bigger, got acne and felt out of my skin. Enough. Enough was enough. The process started with food monitoring, eating less crap, less junk, less sugar. I became a food Nazi. It turned into no sugar, no preservatives. NO CHEMICALS. I had a newfound motto from James Guigan’s book-‐ The Clean and Lean Diet “If it couldn’t swim, fly or run or it didn’t drop off the land-‐ DON’T EAT IT” Everything was for re-‐evaluation, my lifestyle, attitudes, to anything I put in my mouth, to what I put ON my body, because after all, the skin is the biggest organ, so why would I put chemicals into my body via my skin? I very rapidly moved onto Organic food and produce. Consuming less but better quality seemed a good way to go. One subject crept up and kept coming back, I would just push it aside in my thoughts, but I couldn’t ignore it, I was surely going onto an Organic, No CHEMICALS new lease of life, but how could I ignore my RELAXED hair My CHEMICALLY relaxed hair.
Hair was suddenly an aspect to consider. Why did I even feel the need to put CHEMICALS on my head? I’d felt above society for not caring about my hair, deemed myself “un-‐shallow” but was I unknowingly worshipping the god of CHEMICALS? Hair is an important aspect of a person’s psyche and their being. It is a part of who they are. Hair is often associated with a belonging and social group, era or even demographical location, without sounding too presumptuous or assuming the obvious, but an example can be seen in America circa ’69, Woodstock, long shaggy hair, un-‐tamed, yet cool, hip, and “off the radar”. A person could be classified by their hair. Another example I’ve found interesting, whilst doing research, is how during the slave trade, black people were classified and ordered into a hierarchy of human worth, in which one’s socio-‐economic position could be signified by one’s skin colour, the ‘whiter’ looking slaves would be favoured and envied, known to be mixed with the master, they would be closer to him, therefore beneficing an education, food, wealth and more likely to be freed when the master would pass away. I decided to go natural not long after my last relaxer. JUNE 28th 2010. I started looking for videos on youtube about non-‐CHEMICAL hair styles and how to best look after my hair (I had CHEMICALS put on my hair from the age of 8/9) I soon found myself swamped with not only tutorials, but opinions, open criticism of this new ‘movement’ and started wandering if I had caught onto something I didn’t realise even existed, women on the Tyra Banks show sharing stories about natural hair and
CHEMICALLY treated hair, how there seems to be ‘good hair’ and ‘bad hair’. Mothers CHEMICALLY straightening their THREE-‐year-‐old daughters hair! A young girl loved wearing her Hannah Montana, blonde straight hair wig, because, ”it’s cool”, and she feels “sad” when she doesn’t have her Hannah Montana wig on, when asked whether she wanted to wear it because she liked Hannah Montana or because she didn’t like her hair, her reply was “because I don’t like my hair, always”
What really worried me is the fact that Micheal Jackson’s hair had caught on fire BECAUSE of the CHEMICALS. Does that not worry anyone? So how did I belong with CHEMICALS in my hair? Who was imitating and whom was I following? As well as the damage the CHEMICALS bring onto not only the scalp, hair but also self-‐worth, I started to dwell more onto the topic of why black people want straight Caucasian hair? CHEMICALLY straightening one’s hair is an active expression of westernising yourself but where does the line draw between trying to fit in and denying your self? If hair is a “medium for expressing the aspirations of black people historically excluded from access to official social and institutions of representation”, then why would you want to express white hair? Surely it’s more important to stand for what God gave you and be proud? Or do you aspire to be white? Marcus Garvey, a black nationalist, has always acknowledged that racism works by encouraging the devaluation of blackness by black subjects themselves. So by outwardly showing the desire for white hair by CHEMICALLY relaxing black hair, it is rather encouraging discrimination, and the go-‐ahead to prejudice, because if black people themselves are showing the desire for white people’s hair, then why would it be shocking for white people to pick up on this inferiority that has been brought on themselves? This is where I realised that it goes much deeper than just HAIR. Hair is a sign of wealth, health and social-‐standing as well as geographical location. I understand the peer pressure that can exist within communities, one video on youtube from ‘toyaboo2’ had her distraught because she couldn’t understand why her mother and
her friends were so against her ‘going natural’, she had enough of CHEMICALLY straightening her hair. Another lady on The Tyra Banks show, who’s daughter had ‘gone natural’ would not introduce her daughter to anyone, BECAUSE of her hair. I feel there is too much stigma on the whole subject of not CHEMICALLY relaxing your hair, almost as if those who decide to have their hair natural either don’t care or look after themselves or are either feminist, aggressive and almost black extremist, reminiscent of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and the Black Panther movement. Women have a vision of straight Afro-‐American women in music video’s, I found whilst asking individuals that there were clear ideas of what epitomised straight, long hair on a black women-‐ Beauty. Natural hair on a black women? “Africa” was a reply, “messy” was another, and even “ugly” came from another; another individual even said it looks more conditioned when it’s straight, but what about the pain? The burn when the CHEMICAL relaxer is left a second too long? The maintenance? The breaking and on some women the disasters that can occur? And I feel the most important; the fact it looks un-‐natural? Women with CHEMICALLY relaxed hair on youtube were commenting back, “why should we wear the same hair our grandmothers wore”, others replied claiming that now we
have the resources to change our hair texture, why shouldn’t they. There seemed to be a lot of comments about the acceptance of natural hair and how many of the women get complimented, but it was from their entourage and from other black people that they found they were getting resistance and negative comments. One question I couldn’t stop myself from thinking was, why is it that they feel they HAVE to get away from this texture of hair that reminded them of their slave ancestors? Slavery was not a willing action; it’s not because of slavery that it’s normal to wear CHEMICALLY relaxed hair. Black people had natural Afro hair before slavery, and I don’t understand why the end of slavery should mean the end of natural hair? Surely it’s liberating to be able to wear your natural hair, to be able to know that this one cultured aspect left in such a westernised world? I feel that if the women with CHEMICALLY relaxed hair say that it’s their Afro hair that reminds them of slavery, then surely they will start to move onto the colour of their skin and maybe even facial features? There seems to be a sense of pride attached to hair, where distinction of era can be seen from pre-‐Raphaelites signature long wavy hair, to the start of the liberation of women with the short 20’s bob, will CHEMICALLY relaxed hair be the defining point in denial of black history? I feel that women should be proud to adorn their natural hair, people may deem it hard to look after but all it needs is a little of time to learn what works for your own hair, one ‘youtuber’ said; “When you know more about your hair, you know more about yourself” – Whoknew06 I feel he’s right because it’s amazing to find out that not everyone’s hair needs the same maintenance of products, unlike relaxed hair which has the same CHEMICALS applied to
everyone, therefore you know which products will generically work for you, but isn’t it beautiful to know that your hair is DIFFERENT to anyone else’s, to learn that it’s almost like a child who depends on it’s mother? The intimate relationship you can hold with your hair, people can advice you on what could work, just like a friend can advice a new mother on what may work, but when it matters the most, you know what works best, and caring for your hair almost becomes second nature, your hair will tell you when it needs moisture, when it feels it needs to be watered, you just have to be willing to let go of the stereotypes and take that step to going natural. Being natural means: No more CHEMICALS. No more CHEMICAL relaxers. Letting your hair grow out or if you brave it, do a BC (Big Chop). Being proud of your hair texture. Caring for your hair as you would your health. Moisturise. Finding what works best for you. Breaking stereotypes. Enjoying life and what God gave you. A Hair Manifesto by Emeline Nsingi Nkosi
Bibliography Books Collins, P (2000) Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, Second edition, New York and London, Routledge Owusu, K (2000) Black British Culture and Society, London and New York, Routledge Websites http://www.youtube.com; Videos from youtube; Megami284, (17th of May 2009) What is good hair? - Tyra (Part 3) -The Tyra Banks Show African American womens hair (Recorded May 12, 2009, WWOR) Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBoBR20n8S4 msnaturallynatural, (5th of December 2009) Natural Hair: Negative Comment About Natural Hair Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oH5Bsh8Dqy8 Dunte86 (5th of December 2009) Natural Hair in a Processed World. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyitHNb67ig whoknew06 (5th of December 2009) Re: Natural Hair in a Processed World Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PK0sW9nyTo Kinkycurlycoil (31st December 2009) Stages of
Natural Hair Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bROjpcwSRQE Toyaboo2 (5th of May 2010) Im Going Natural...but why so much NEGATIVITY? Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HwkVu16WC4 Blacktreemedia, (5th of October 2009) Raven Symone, talks Good Hair.... Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm_fShG8ua8 http://nappturality.com/ Pictures Kinkycurlycoil (31st December 2009) Stages of Natural Hair Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bROjpcwSRQE Megami284, (17th of May 2009) What is good hair? - Tyra (Part 3) -The Tyra Banks Show African American womens hair (Recorded May 12, 2009, WWOR) Available:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBoBR20n8S4 Toyaboo2 (5th of May 2010) Im Going Natural...but why so much NEGATIVITY? Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HwkVu16WC4 Interviews Ahmed, T – What do you think of natural hair? 7th of December 2010, London, Blackberry Messenger. Elom, M – What do you think of Natural Hair? 7th Of December 2010, London, Skype. Jean-‐ Francois, L – What do you think of Natural hair? 8th of December, London and Swindon, Via Text.