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Black Women’s Transitions To Natural Hair

The filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa presents an Op-Doc on black women’s determination to embrace their naturally kinky hair, somewhat than use chemical straighteners.

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Once i set out to make a documentary about black women who are “transitioning” — slicing off their chemically straightened hair and embracing their natural kinky afro texture — I had no intention of appearing in the movie. I felt I used to be an goal observer and really simply wished to focus on a growing movement. (Of the 50 or so girls I struck up conversations with randomly on the street, the overwhelming majority had gone natural throughout the last three years. According to one industry research, sales of chemical straightening kits, which could be dangerous, reportedly dropped by 17 p.c between 2006 and 2011.) However together with my own story compelled me to examine how I felt about my hair with extra honesty than ever before.

There are as many “natural hair journeys” as there are transitioning ladies. What I discover remarkable about the movement is the way it is spreading through black women in America. Many are transitioning silently, without much fanfare. Some are inspired by mates and family members who’ve already made the swap. As Anu Prestonia, the owner of Khamit Kinks, a pure hair salon in Brooklyn, told me, “There’s been an evolutionary process that has turned right into a revolution.” It’s not freetress hair products an offended motion. Girls aren’t saying their motivation is to fight Eurocentric ideals of magnificence. Rather, this is a movement characterized by self-discovery and health.

However black hair and the black physique generally have long been a site of political contest in American historical past and in the American imagination. Towards this backdrop, the transition motion has a political dimension — whether or not transitioners themselves consider it or not. Demonstrating this level of self-acceptance represents a robust evolution in black political expression. If racial politics has led to an internalization of self-loathing, then true transformation will come internally, too. It will not be a performative act. Saying it loud: “I’m black and I’m proud” is one factor. Believing it quietly is one other. So the transition motion is rather more profound and way more powerful — and i believe it affords classes in self-acceptance for individuals of all hues and all genders.

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Zina Saro-Wiwa is a documentary maker and video artist. Her work contains the documentary “This Is My Africa,” which was broadcast on HBO. She is British-Nigerian and lives in Brooklyn.

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