To the dark skinned woman of african decent, hair is always a big topic. How shall I wear my hair? a question that plays in our mind all the time. How shall I be perceived by society based on how I choose to wear my hair ? ,another thing to think about. I come from Nigeria, a place where westernized hairstyles are embraced in big cities like Lagos where I lived. I now live in San Francisco, here individuality and freedom of expression are accepted. In Nigeria, I worked in a bank where I was not allowed to put tints in my permed hair, which I wore in a neatly cropped ‘bob’ . I once wore my hair woven in a hairstyle called “Alicia Keys”, decorated in beads and ornaments. I was told to take the beads off. Ironic how this traditional look was inspired by an African American singer. If your hair was natural and woven or in an afro, forget it, no one would hire you. I worked in a Telecoms firm which felt like a house of fashion. Here I became obsessed with 100% human hair, Brazilian and Indian were the best textures. So soft and silky, I gladly had my natural hair subdued in tracks so that I could stitch my very expensive human hair unto it. I saw a movie called “The Eye” with Jessica Alba, she got an eye transplant and began to see the visions of the person whose eyes she wore. It was frightening to think of the identity of the persons whose hair I wore, what if I get possessed by her thoughts one day?
I got to San Francisco and had diverse roommates who never understood the African hair. Since I was skilled in hairdressing, I’d take out my weaves and replace them myself in my walk in closet because I never wanted to reveal my natural look to them. One day , I just got tired. I had my hair braided so that my scalp could finally breathe and when the braids got old, I took them out, one by one freeing up my natural hair.It was all natural now, I had cut off the perm and grown my hair in its own unique texture. It floated in space and bounced off my scalp, standing tall, full and fluffy. It was liberated atlast. Maria, my Mexican roommate looked at me puzzled, “whats wrong with your hair” she asked, “what do you mean whats wrong with it?”, I responded. “It’s standing”, she continued, still looking perplexed, “of course it’s standing, its supposed to stand, I am from Africa”, I responded, “Haven’t you seen Jackson 5”, I continued, showing her the picture I had of Jackson 5 on my wall to reaffirm that our hair is supposed to look like that. I didn’t blame her for being so shocked, after all I had been hiding under my Brazilian hair, woven all down my back, but then it also surprised me how ignorant some people from other parts of the world are about the African hair.
This painting Keahafro pays tribute to the African hair in a fro. It celebrates its texture, beauty and versatility. It shows pride and confidence in those who choose to wear it.
My hair is an extension of my individuality. I now have it in locks and no longer on lockdown. This is the best expression of me, artistic, real, natural and liberated.
Keahafro, oil on canvas, 30″ x 30″
is available for sale at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th Street, Downtown Oakland, CA, 94612