My granddad passed away January, 2018 so i decided to cut the locs i’d been growing for almost 4 years (2014–2018). Well he was like a father to me and my brother and cousins. i started my hair over from a teeny tiny afro. And remembered how difficult trying to style 4C hair is in a postcolonial space. How little love the tightest coiled hair texture gets it this space. Regretting not knowing to style it myself. Struggling to find someone to braid, cornrow or put it in state that’d have people just leave me be. It’s so funny how people always have a lot to say but won’t help you style your hair, nor teach you how to do it yourself.
i think often about how we must prioritise teaching Black girls with the coarsest texture of hair, the hair which is most hated in postcolonial and colonial spaces, how to love and also how to style our own hair. After temporarily living in a far away country knowing no one, for 11 weeks in an almost completely cashless society without digital cash and trying to doing an art residency at the same time. Yeah that sounds like strong Black woman strong Black woman-ing, but i am NOT a strong Black woman at all. My grandma fell, did surgery and was recovering, i was told, but still passed away, in the second month of the residency. i did not even get to say goodbye nor attend the funeral.
i came back home feeling so unaccomplished not having *networked* (whatever that could mean) enough to extend whatever exposure and opportunities the residency was giving me beyond the 11 weeks. My hair and skin were both in a state of great disrepair and my emotions were all over the place. Needless to say i was burnt out AF. Since my hair was already damaged from a silk press in November of the previous year, i decided lets bleach and dye in July, by August the hair was half its length and still breaking off. On August 31, 2022, three-quarters-ways through a very intense year for me, i decided to shave my head and start anew.
It was an emotional day for me. Well i’ve been socialised to hate my hair. i remember quite vividly at 6 years old a babysitter standing me up and comparing my hair texture to hers. She is a mixed race person, South-East Asian and Black. She asked me if i noticed the differences between my and her hair. She told me that those differences made her hair beautiful and mine ugly. i remember around that same time, having my hair styled by a mestiza babysitter who called her sisters and showed them the “one pretty part of my hair.” i desperately wanted to see it. Years later, with a mirror i realised that at the nape of my neck on either side my hair has much looser curls than the rest of my hair. i guess that’s what she was referring to. That August day as much as i was happy to be rid of the hair, because it was damaged, visibly so, i’d still not learned to love my hair or learned to style it, i felt real ugly without it. So i felt sad all over again.
It has been a whole year. My hair is a little higher than a tiny afro and i still do not know how to style it. Still struggling to find a braider or stylist, but definitely working on the relationship towards loving my hair. This is not as easy to do while working in television. Viewers still see things, as we all do in postcolonial spaces, through a very colonised lens. Hair tutorials look so easy, until you give it a go and realise, yeah, hair braiding is definitely a skillset we do not all naturally have and some of us will need to be guided to acquire.
i guess this flood of thoughts came to me because yesterday i ran into a friend from a neighbourhood i lived in briefly. i told her how many times i’ve cut my hair and or balded my head. Too many times to count. How my maternal grandmother, and namesake, now ancestor didn’t like it and told me as much. i told my friend, i’ll let it grow this time, and see where it goes. She asked me “you sure you won’t cut again” smiling, “because you like to cut.” i’m sure i told her, with the most uncertain smile i could muster. Thanks for reading this, will let you all know where i am 2 years in.