23 Sep Don’t Touch My Hair
- When brands don’t “get” culture
- Hair culture and identity, representation & commodification
- Getting real with a new paradigm
- The Wire’s top 3 “Hair” films
The culture of “hair” in South Africa has raised its head recently so to speak. It’s a conversation that never really goes away, and, depending on which thread of the follicle divide you fall, it is one fraught with emotion, complexity and the real psychological scars of colonialism, at least in South Africa. Certainly, hair culture is a real world topic beyond academia.
Gqom superstar Sho Madjozi, fiercely proud of her Tsonga heritage, often rocks a braided hairstyle with its Fulani and Tuareg influence; Moonchild Sanelly deconstructs the conversation with the ownership of her electrifying deep blue oversize woven mop style, to; illustrator wunderkind Karabo Poppy, who cleverly weaves barber culture into her art. That big brand Tresemme and beauty and health retailer Clicks got the conversation so wrong is telling, especially in an era where brands and culture align themselves inextricably.
“What’s The Quarantee” host Tarryn Cardré (who describes it as a fun, loud-mouthed, no-nonsense podcast exploring culture and tradition through the lens of an unproblematic, problematic feminist) shared her thoughts on the issues of identity, representation, commodification and a possible new paradigm of looking at hair issues and hair culture in SA.
“Owning your presence as a naturalista is hard. An entire movement was created to help folks embrace their kinks, only to be constantly judged by our schools, workplace and even social settings. We are told we are lazy and untidy because of the way we naturally look. Ironic since it often takes hours to get the perfect look we want,” says Tarryn.
She further deconstructs: “Representation has come a long way in the movement but the way capitalism is set up, a movement once created to provide a safe space for dark skinned girls with kinky hair, became a giant money hungry machine with light skin woman showcasing a very loose curl as the poster child.”
Tarryn concludes that creating a new paradigm to have honest conversations about hair requires, firstly, to understand that this is not just hair. It is about race, colourism, gender and classism. Nothing exists within a silo and the sooner we can confront the cultural embedding of social ills, the sooner we can live in a world where the likes of Clicks no longer underestimate the indignity and devaluation of the integrity & normalization of natural hair.
The Wire’s top 3 movies about hair
1.“Nappily Ever After” a Netflix’s original movie about a Black woman who measures her beauty and value as per her natural hair rather than from the beauty from within her.
2.“Good Hair” by Chris Rock on Amazon Prime is a comedy documentary based on his daughter asking what good hair is versus what bad hair is. It cleverly examines the history of Eurocentric beauty forced on the Black community, the science behind relaxers and even a world tour, with a visit to India to learn more about bundles and weaves.
3.“Hair that moves” also on Amazon Prime, is an endearing short film about a township girl attending a prestigious English school in the North, who enters a singing competition. But in order to even have a chance at winning with her favourite Pop-star’s song, she needs one key element…hair that moves!
You can listen to Capetonian Tarryn Cardré’s podcast “What’s The Quarantee” (ranked in the top 200 on Spotify) about the issue of hair more deeply at:
Words by Rob Greeff