By Bwalya Newton
Black hair is political.
From Angela Davis’ ‘fro to Rastafarian dreadlocks; black hairstyles are weighted with the cultural histories and struggles of the liberation of black people.
As a black woman, I’ve come to learn that our hair will often be a bone of contention; something to ogle at and discuss at great length.
Whether braided or wearing a twist-out, my hair is one of the ways in which I can convey my wonderful complexities and pride. It’s also sometimes not that serious.
Commentators asserted to millions of viewers that they thought she probably “smelt of weed.”
This kind of negative has been laboured on to my hair too many times to mention!
In contrast, I often receive warm murmurs of “yes sistrin” or appreciative nods of solidarity at the sight of my natural hair.
Black women have yet to earn the privilege to wear their hair without the need to defend it.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie succinctly puts it; “If Michelle Obama had natural hair, Barack Obama would not have won.”
The black community itself has struggled with its own characterisation of what it deems to be “Good Hair,” as Chris Rock’s movie of the same title explores.
Movements like #teamnatural, bloggers like Natural Belle and websites like Thandie and Kay’s now contain feeds dedicated to the communal celebration and education of a myriad of curl patterns, ethnicities and shades that make up the black community.
Furthermore, black female run businesses have sprung up offering pomades, oils, wigs and weaves; all of them in some way taking ownership of their identities.
The media too is embracing a more authentic depiction of black womanhood. A recent example of this can be found in Shonda Rhimes’ ‘How To Get Away With Murder’, in which we see Viola Davis’ character remove her wig and make-up on screen.
It is imperative that this irreverent playfulness, often overlooked in discussions of black hair, is highlighted.
We have been afforded the wonderful gift of playing with hair in an almost sculptural format and soon the discussions surrounding it will become more abstract and fantastically normal.
Bwalya Newton is a Freelance Writer and DJ currently working on a project exploring the arts and culture of her native Zambia.
Follow her excellent Tumblr’ The Miseducation of Bwalya
Bwalya also narrated a piece that she wrote on Afrofuterism for us.