*I really wanted to call this blog, Better Keep Your Hands Off My Potential New Boyfriend, Cus it’s a joyously crazy nonsense thing to say (or sing, Dolly), but that has little (and by little I mean NOTHING) to do with what I’m going to talk to you about. This, on the other hand, does:
Hello my friend,
I have been absent because of various things – planning things is an unstable, uninspiring thing to write about (and sometimes a dispiriting thing to be doing. you should see the meltdowns), the calling that is moderately priced soap has been particularly demanding, and numerous other excuses, but mostly I don’t write to you unless I have something to say.
And today, I write to you to say that I’m starting a two month project with East Street Arts – do you know them? Course you do, they’re wonderful, look: http://eaststreetarts.org.uk/ – and it’s all about HAIR! Black hair, specifically. You may have guessed this when you were confronted by Oprah and all that hair and all that orange.
I want to be an expert, guys. An expert on Black Hair. I see it as a rite of passage, for me, I see it as a part of how I become a woman. Over the next two months, I want to learn everything there is to know about black hair, until there’s not a question you can ask me that I can’t answer. And when I’ve become that expert, I shall create my very own laboratory, a lecture theatre, a spiritual home, a haven for this expert. Filled with everything that black hair means. And when that space is good and ready, I’ll invite you in.
And I’ll invite you in to celebrate not only the fact that I’ll have become an expert, but also to celebrate the experts that will have taught me how to be an expert. Over the next two months I will be working at various hair shops and hairdressers in Chapeltown, being taught by a hairdresser the five styles she feels are most important, making tea at barbershops, and interviewing, interviewing, interviewing. And every night for a month somebody new will do my hair before I go to bed (why am I always giving bits of my body away? I don’t like people touching my hair. maaaah). I will be interviewing writers, scientists, trichologists, hairdressers, lecturers, mothers, teenagers, aunts, nieces, little sisters, grandmothers, husbands, designers, retailers, historians, psychologists. I will be meeting with some of the people who have made my hair grow… and asking some of the people who held their tongues – and didn’t! – when I shaved it off. I will be reading, reading, reading – books for children, for black feminists, for historians, books about african diaspora, and the different uses of coconut oil, castor oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera juice, shea butter, apple cider vinegar.
And I will celebrate those people, because something which could just be hygiene, is not. It’s an artform. And in some cases, it is the statement of an activist. It is a part of how I and those that share my hair… in all it’s glory, and in all it’s challenges… have shaped our cultural identity for centuries. This isn’t specific to Black Hair, of course. I work at Lush (you know this, I jabber about it all the time), and I spend about an hour of my day everyday talking about all sorts of hair, and I know that it’s a medium of self expression whoever you are, regardless of race. But the politicised nature of Black Hair, and the obsession it seems to engender… I’ve seen nothing else like it. I worked the natural hair show for Lush, a few weeks ago, and it was a joy. A complete and utter joy. But the women that were there… there was nothing about ingredients they didn’t already know, their presence at that event was a strategic move, they had come armed with game plans. GUYS! I’ve got to make something about that. Listen –
When I was little my mum would spend an entire weekend on my hair. It would take her most of Saturday afternoon to take it all out of the braids, detangle it, wash it, condition and blow dry it, but it into big plaits… an then we’d go to church. She’d cook dinner, and when we got back, she’d take all day to put it back into the braids, with little coloured bands on the end of each one. It looked different everyday, as it shrank, shrank, shrank. Hair that was wrapped each night before bed, a wrap that was covered with a cardigan while I danced around my room and imagined it was something else entirely. And then it was extensions, which my aunt did, and made me watch cool runnings three times in a row while she did it, because there wasn’t time for me to go upstairs and get another tape. And then relaxers, and then weaves… at distinctly similar points in my life (Hmm.). And now… natural hair. Researched pharmacy online. Braided before bed, Afro’d out into big kinky twists in the morning, nourished with coconut oil, and R&B and avocado and bananas and olive oil and honey…. aaahhhhh! Listen to all of those textures! All my tactile senses are tingling. There’s so much to make and I’ve not even started yet. I can’t wait!
So that’s what I’m doing.
Who wants to come and do my hair?
This month I am:
– Doing this!
– Going on an artist retreat to Beacons festival with the wonderful Adam Young: http://www.indivisible.eu/ – to make new work for festivals and try it out on drunken Yorkshire men and women, all giddy off of music and booze
– Trying to hustle my way to Edinbrurgh to see.. EVERYTHING at Forest Fringe and The Worst of Scottee and EVERYTHING at Hunt & Darton and Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model and EVERYTHING at Northern Stage but mostly, my friends and fellow uni of Sheffield alumni The Thunderbards, and Bring the Happy by the wonderful Invisible Flock and Hope and Social.
– Making a new piece of work for the Freedom Festival in Hull, which I will be performing at in September, with Drunken Chorus/Drunken Nights – also, dusting down Tipsy Claire, ready to air that bad boy out again
– Urging you to come to this: http://www.arconline.co.uk/whats-on/drama-and-spoken-word/chewing-the-fat – and trying to create more magic around it
– Working on a massive secret exciting thing. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
– Missing my parents, who are on holiday in Jamaica, without their kids, for the first time in maybe 24 years. They are the living embodiment of true, life long love.
And on that note-
Lots of people got in touch following the show to request a reading list of the various…