Note from BW of Brazil: Black. Women. Hair. Three aspects of the identity of African-descendants of the feminine gender that can profoundly mark experiences in western societies. For centuries, skin color and gender have subjected black women to status of inferior in a world dominated by white men. When one considers the negative connotations attributed to afro-textured hair, is it any wonder why millions of black women around the world have done everything possible to avoid the denigration and ridicule they are subjected to on a daily basis in countries where straight hair is the established standard of beauty? In Brazil, for example, one can be harassed, fired or even barred from school because of choices that value the afro aesthetic. Although historically the natural black hair texture has always been viewed negatively in the Brazilian imagination, in recent years there has been an impressive rise in the pride of African curls and kinks. During the recent Month of Black Consciousness in the capital city of Brasília, a group of black women were the focus of yet another display of this pride.
Exposition brings together different types of hair
by Adriana Izel
Since Zumbi, the leader of the Quilombo of Palmares, was killed on November 20, 1695, Brazilians celebrate on that date, the National Day of Black Consciousness. With the intent to promote reflection and discussion about prejudice that black women face in daily life, student Valéria Matos, 24, mounted the exhibition “Nós negras, Cabelo e Identidade” (We black women, Hair and Identity), on display through November 28 in the Library of the Catholic University of Brasília (UCB).
The initiative is part of the grad project in the area of social communication. A militant of black feminism, Valéria shows the challenges faced, starting with the relationship with the hair. “We, black women are represented in a stereotypical way and eroticized way. Since childhood, we have a great challenge that is relating to the hair that is not socially accepted and is called by many derogatory adjectives. Ruim (bad), pixaim (nappy) and palha de aço (scouring pad),” she exemplifies.
The student sought the characters of exposure among her own friends, women that she met in the corridors of the university and the social networks. They are people of different ages, body types and cabelos crespos (kinky/curly hair) worn in various ways, such as black power (afro), braids and dreadlocks.
In addition to photographing them, Valeria Matos collected testimonials. “I could see that many women until adulthood, were unaware of the true texture of their own hair, because, since a young age, they were instructed to “tame it”, as if it was a problem to be solved. Accepting natural hair is to challenge racism. It is to resist the imposed standards and celebrating our status as black woman,” she believes.
Despite seeing that a lot has changed in relation to prejudice against blacks, the student assesses that there is a long way to go. “Racism that we face is real and daily. We want better conditions of employment, health and education. We want to be represented in a positive way and we want the history of our people to be considered and valued,” she argues.
The fight against discrimination was motivated by what she wanted to display in the work in the Month of Black Consciousness. “This month is very important to remember the struggle and resistance of our people. It is, also, time to reflect on the importance of fighting racism and promoting debate and making people conscious around us,” she concludes.
Source: Correio Braziliense, Divirta-se mais