Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Lies Beyond "Good Hair"

As I mentioned previously, part of my purpose for this blog is to examine hair not as a phenomenon of fashion but as a physical embodiment of identity and culture. I want to  provide black hair history as well as explore the hair trends and attitudes of African and African American people. 

According to Kobena Mercer (a cultural worker/critic whose varied work on the politics of representation in African diasporic visual arts) hairstyling is a cultural practice and signifier of black identity. 

All this week I have been posting my African Hair Trends series over on my devon4africa blog. For those of you who don't follow me on that blog please stop by and take look.  I will post the series here as well once my redesign is up and running (hope to be completed in the next 10 days).

We are more than our hair

Today I want to share with you a look at hair attitudes in Ghana. I uncovered an award winning short documentary by Ghana filmmaker, Akosua Adoma Owusu. The film is entitled "Me Broni Ba" (My white baby), Akosua also provided post-production assistance on Chris Rock’s Good Hair.

Akosua Adoma Owusu - Personal Statement
I realized the performance of using synthetic hair to style my hair was also a way for me to conceal something deeply seeded and personal. To white people, I was making a black power statement; to my Black friends, I was an African; and to Ghanaians, the length of my natural hair made me a broni ba. 

The hairstyles I experimented with in my life - the Afro, Braids, and hair straightening - were physical manifestations of my warring triple consciousness. I used my hair to fuse my Ghanaian and American pieces. I am formed by at least two cultures: Ghana as homeland and living in the United States in an immigrant family.  I think of myself as a walking contradiction and make use of my cultural hybridity in my film investigations.  That being said, I do not hesitate to move readily back and forth between similar (or different) mundane activities in West Africa and North America, ever aware of my insider and outsider status. weaves to dreadlocks, the politics behind hairstyling comes from the roots of self-identification.  

Me Broni Ba (My White Baby) uses the specifics of hair as a metaphor for personal identity, culture, and language. I was also interested in showing the creativity of African women and how this creativity is applied to the body. However, instead of deconstructing history, my film work also finds tensions in my bi-cultural identity that refer to moments in time. By making my work personal, a broad range of viewers can relate more to the artist’s experience. My goal is to somehow transcend this opposition between the self and the other. Art and films have moved on from mere ambiguity and conceptual repetition. Art has the power to change and give audiences the credibility to find their own place in an artist’s story.  Akosua's film,  Waving II: White Afro is currently in post-production.

The Film
Me Broni Ba,  is a fascinating, thought-provoking film exploring internalized colonial and racial stereotypes. In the streets, courtyards, and households of Accra, children of all social classes play with imported second-hand white baby dolls. Meanwhile, in the myriad beauty salons in Ghana, women pursue their fascination with braiding and with creating “soft” hair. In the second part of the film, a young girl tells of her move to the United States and her inability to keep her hands off the blond hair of her new classmates.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this fascinating story.