Natural Hair

Khadijah Sykes
Oct 1, 2014 3:32AM

I am making an exhibition about black hair. I just find black hair to be amazing. No other culture has hair like people from African or African-American descent. I have seen no others that can work their hair into more diverse styles. With the rise of the natural hair movement I am seeing more of this diversity than ever. The natural hair movement is women of color all striving for their naturally curly hair texture to be seen as beautiful and accepted by mainstream culture. There are two main categories of black hair, natural and relaxed.

If a black person’s hair is straight then it has most likely been chemically straightened with the use of relaxers. If the hair is curly then the hair is in its natural state. The use of relaxers is what is most widely accepted by the political and work world. Sadly though using these products commonly causes chemical burns to the scalp and weakens hair so that most black women never grow hair past usually shoulder length before it breaks off.

If a black person’s hair is curly or afro-textured then they have opted out of using a perm and are growing natural hair. If taken care of natural hair can be very beautiful, but most people don’t see it this way. Natural hair is commonly called nappy, kinky, dirty, and unmanageable. In the U.S. and U.K. around age nine a black women’s hair is expected to be relaxed.  If you wear your hair natural many people, especially black people, would ask why. They ask ‘You do know the 70’s are over right?’ and ‘Why would you want to wear your hair like a slave?’ They don’t know that after slavery in the 1786 black women were wearing their hair in such fabulous ways, adding jewels and feathers to their high hairdos and walking around with such beauty and pride that white women were jealous and white men wanted them. Their hair styles were obscuring their status so much that it threatened the social stability. Then the Tignon Laws were introduced. A tignon (pronounced “tiyon”) is a headdress. The laws demanded women of color to cover their hair with a fabric cloth in public.  They were meant to bring down the women’s new found pride. That’s what was intended anyway, but many women tied the tignon in elaborate ways using beautiful fabrics and other additions to make them appealing. In the end, what was meant to draw less attention to them made them even more beautiful.

 I love natural black hair. With more people wearing it is becoming accepted by main stream media. My afro and head wraps remind me of my culture. A culture that has been tested, made strives, faltered, but always comes out stronger than before. I don’t know where the future of black hair is headed but it will always be bright. I think it would be wonderful to showcase pieces of art that focus on that beauty.  

Khadijah Sykes