The othering of Blackness, a tale as old as time, and at the core of it, a kinky afro; it’s political connotations, healing aspects and sense of community. Something so unique and frequently imitated, yet perpetually criticised. No other debate is more fraught in the modern era as cultural appropriation, with discussions almost always disputing its existence. Black hair is the subject of multiple controversies, always deemed unprofessional/unkempt or a visible badge of politicism. At a time where discussions centred around this are becoming more visible, two black creatives, Josef Adamu and Rhea Dillon, explore the theme of Hair, it’s therapeutic properties and symbolic meanings.
They explore with great care what lies beneath the simplicity of hair. Both explore the “process”, which some may deem just as, if not more significant than the end product.
The short film entitled "Process", London based Dillon demonstrates how although highly politicised hair is also freeing we are adorned with images of various black people in different stages of the “process”. Different textures, ages and places all held together by a single notion; the diversity and beauty of blackness in all its forms. The process ignites a conversation about the way black hair is perceived, digging deep into the methods and durations of the very many styling procedures that exist. There is nothing wash and go about this. It is tentative in its desire to show accurately depict how black hair requires a patience and tenderness, how most heads have their own set of rules and rituals which are never depicted in popular advertising or culture.
Toronto based Adamu’s study of the black hair salon in multimedia project "The Hair Appointment", specifically shows the beautiful community aspect of such establishments. Taking us on a journey through the dizzying sounds of a local Brooklyn business that exists as more than just a place of service. Adamu is able to show us this common encounter beyond surface level. The gathering of a minority where one can find belonging and advice but also a sense of rebirth. The shots of the busy environment are a colourful display of the vibrancy of Black salons.
Both films firmly stand within the frontier of what the current black renaissance in popular culture aims to achieve. Films for us, by us, about us.
Written by Yelita Ali
"Process" BTS photographs taken by Tom Oliver, IG: @tom_oliverr
"The Hair Appointment" Photographs taken by Jeremy Rodney-Hall, IG: @jeremyrodneyhall