Hair in the black community is one that is heavily tied to culture and identity far beyond what most societies value. Hair is a symbol of individuality, status, and self worth, it reflects what you think of yourself and how others should treat you. I can remember getting my hair straightened with a hot comb on the stove and crying because I could feel the hair grease sizzle and crack on my scalp. When I was 9 I begged to get a relaxer because I was the only black girl in my school and I wanted long flowing hair like the rest of the girls, I now regret that. At one time I just wanted blonde hair, not necessarily whiteness but just the seeming ease of having that kind of hair. Still to this day I think, if I had long, straight hair I could do whatever I wanted with it and not be confined to the choice of natural vs. relaxed. I have been through many hair transformations on my hair journey. I have had blond hair, blue hair, no hair, long hair, braids, pink hair, a mohawk, weaves, wigs, and extensions, including wearing my own hair naturally curly. I like my natural hair but I enjoy convience and variety more, so I have tried many different things to get the look I was going for. My hair has been fried, dyed and dried out and when I was 21 I lost most of my hair and had no choice but to shave it all off. Since then, I’ve been growing it back, wearing wigs and taking care of it more closely.
Obviously, the tie to blackness and hair are strong and incredibly revealing when explored by artists. Nakeya Janice Brown is exploring those symbols of identity and hair in her photography. Her artist statement is:
“My work is the visualization of blackness and womanhood with an emphasis on the politics of hair- one the most scrutinized components of a black woman’s body. My photographs examine the multiplicity of African–American hair through presenting it in various states whether braided, weaved, straightened, or natural. I am intrigued by its ability to communicate dual messages about a woman’s relationship to herself and to society at large. I often employ the female figure and feminine objects to render representations of black feminality and explore the changing language of beauty. Through past memories and personal observations, I use photography to examine how the racialized notion of beauty shape self-perception from a black feminist context.”
“If Nostalgia Were Colored Brown”