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I always wanted to have longer hair but never have the courage to do it because of the fear not to be socially fully accepted.
Recently I decided to let it grow and aim at to have dread locks as a symbol of courage, rebellion but as well reconciliation with my own desire.

Paul-Emile, 28, Male, Haiti
#Gender #Stereotype #SocialPressure #Symbole
#LongHairForMen #Dreadlocks

I started growing my hair for college but I was forced to cut it because of religion and my parents. I want to colour my hair but I live in constant fear of being labelled a homosexual. I am open with my sexuality - but I still fear death.
Currently I’m growing my hair again.
Let’s see how this goes.

Michail, 19, Male, Jamaica-Barbados
#SocialPressureFamily #Gender #Religion
#LongHairForMen #Colour

Having short hair when younger. People made assumptions of my sexual orientation.
Diko, Tomboy, etc…

Kate, 31, Female, UK
#Gender #Stereotype

I wore lox for thirteen years. I felt insecure when I removed. People I knew stopped relating to me in their usual ways.

X., 60, Female, Jamaica
#Dreadlocks #HairAsProtection

Wished for thicker kinky hair that could be a proper Afro!

R., 58, Female, Jamaica
#BlackHair #Afro

Love having long silver hair. Sometimes wear it loose and feel “witchy”. It does age me, but now, with silver & white, salt & pepper, I finally have the highlights I always longed for!

Claudia, 61, Female, New-York/Jamaica/SXM

I always had long relaxed hair. I decided to cut it a couple months ago and go back natural. My beloved Granny and my mother actually stopped speaking to me because it was their belief that “hair is beauty”. I refused to believe that i was no longer beautiful. Even to them. This created a gap that I constantly try to fill with them. I love them but I love my happiness more. Is that selfish?

Kay, 24, Female, Jamaica

Over the years the style of my hair changed as to what the norm @ the time, new friend or what appealed to my individuality. The older I got, I realized that my hair was actually had more status than I taught, as the more I looked indian, the difference I was treated, had to cut it due being in a managerial role as to lead by example as expected of leaders. Miss my hair.

Kemar, 34, Male, Jamaica

Before I was born, my creator asked me if I wanted thick beautiful hair or extra brain cells. I chose brain cells and now that I am so smart with these brain cells, I wonder if it wasn’t stupid to choose smart over beautiful. Signed: Thin Hair

Joy, 70, Female, USA

My maternal family is Chinese. I am the only one in my family with black -not Chinese- hair. It made me different, but I never wanted anything else.
Except maybe for someone to be able to comb it once in a while.
But even that “lack” led to my developing a style all my own, hair all my own, that I love as part of what make me me!

MMM, 50, Female, Jamaica

I hated my curly hair until I was an adult. Through youtube I discovered girls
around the world that hair like mine and they thought me how to love myself. No weaves, no straighteners. Now I don’t have to hide when it rains. #loveyourself

Tasmin, 26, Female, Jamaica
#NaturalHair #SelfLove

I tried to grow my hair for the first time but failed!! So BACK to short hair again

Nara, 30, Female, Korea

Hair is our disguise. Interface with the world. SHAVE IT OFF & you can no longer hide behind the mask.

R, 32, Female, USA
#Society #Identity

I relaxed my hair at 11 even though I wasn’t sure what it was. All I knew is that I wanted straighter hair. Even though my hair is still relaxed (healthy), I learned to love the curls I had before.

Amanda, 17, Female, USA
#Relaxer #Curls

I relaxed my hair when I was about 12, I didn’t regret it then, but now I do because my curl don’t come out as they should. #LoveYourHair #Str888!!!

Jodean, 15, Female, Jamaica
#Relaxer #Curls #Str888

Red, but brown, but black, but gold, but orange.
Sun makes it shine the moon shows black and (???) grows 
My hair…. is multitude of mystery. I love it and so does my mum and dad
They say it makes me different and different is good

Gabe, 16, Female, Jamaica

I was “convinced” to wear my hair natural 5 years ago. Never knowing what “type” of hair texture I actually had. I am so grateful that I transformed, for I have been transformed and liberated in every aspect in my life. FREEdom!
Proudly sporting a “Fro”!

Jill, 46, Female, N.America
#NaturalHair #Afro #Freedom #Pride

When I was about 3 years old, I had long brown hair. My mother loved to brush it and put it in pigtails and pony tails. We visited relatives in Canada. One of my aunts had very thin hair and didn’t like to see others with abundant hair. One day when my parents went to visit someone, my aunt took me to the hairdresser who cut my hair very short. When my parents returned to pick me up they found me in tears and my hair gone! They yelled at my aunt and then everyone was crying. Since then, I generally wear my hair mid-length as a tribute to my first hair that was crudely taken from me.

Bev, 60’s, Female, USA 
#ShortHair #Cut

I grew up in Danemark being raised by my Danish mother, in a country where there isn’t a lot of people with tight curls or afros. So being part Jamaican I didn’t really feel represented. I looked at the white girls in school. And couldn’t think of anything I wanted more than to have straight hair like them. As I grew older I started to see people like me in music videos and later through social media like facebook, tumblr and instagram. I got friends with beautiful curls, and found out my hair was also beautiful like theirs. I started loving my curls in my teens, and I’m very proud to be natural.

Safa, 20, Female, Denmark
#NaturalHair #Pride #SelfLove

I entered the Miss Jamaica World pageant and in order to go further as a selected semi-finalist, I was told to remove my braids. They were considered (?) as an unfair advantage and a misrepresentation of who I am.
25 years later, I am known and recognised by my braids, and rarely have they been an advantage to anything. In fact they may have been a hindrance to my work in certain performing arts spaces. But one thing is certain - they absolutely represent who I am. Or - Who I’ve been for my adult life…. until now.

BM,?, Female, Sierra Leone/Jamaica/USA
#Braids #Identity

My hair is natural but I like to straighten it and wear weave.
My hair grows bushy. When it gets too big, I am told it looks “unprofessional” and people stare when I walk so I straighten it.

I wonder if I like it straight because of my own will or subconsciously realising people’s perspective of it.

Erica, ?, Female, USA
#NaturalHair #Relaxer #Straight

Hair today (18) gone tomorrow (48)

Mike, 48, Male, Jamaica
#Bald #Loss

An African father. A Dutch mother. A head full of curls.
Curls that people expect me to share. Strangers touching it, without asking because it looked so soft, because they should love to have curls like that.
I often fantasise what it would evoke if I went about town touching the heads of blonde people everywhere I went in the Netherlands.

JMB, 27, Female, the Netherlands

I’m Indian and growing up in a predominantly black country, my hair was especially of notice. I was praised for it, it was my {identifier} Whenever I experience emotional trauma, my first instinct is to cut it. This mens break ups, failures, abuse. I cut it.
I cut it because when bad things happen I feel as though I lose myself, so I take away what people identify me by. I was raped. I want to save it all off.

Samantha, 19, Female, Antigua
#Cut #Change

I loved my natural hair. My father hated it so he took me to a salon to have it straightened at 10 years old. I went to the barber at 13 to cut it off. Then put in a  Jerry curl because someone said your hair would grow faster. That did not happen so I cut it off again, then wore braids until it grew. Then wore coils, then cut it off again. It’s still short, It suits me fine.

N., 41, Female, Jamaica/USA

Behold the beauty! African Hair!

X., 37, Female, Jamaica

I recently started to embrace my natural hair. Now I don’t care about statment regarding how nappy and unkempt my hair is. I am Black. I am a woman. I am proud.
I am a carefree Black woman.

Jeannette, 22, Female, Jamaica
#NaturalHair #Pride #Confidence

So I always wanted to grow my hair. Finally got the chance when I went on my own to “college”. However came back home and gosh it was crucifixion. You know how tradition is!
But I’m still rocking it… It’s kinda nappy right now… Jah Rastafari !!!
I love my look tho ;-)

X, Male

A year ago I had long flowing hair that cascaded down to my back… I also had no confidence, self worth or pride until I met someone who thought a mohawk would look cuter.
I now have a mohawk with way more confidence, endless self worth and most importantly the love of my life. 

Roxann, 22, Female, Jamaica

I’ve had every hairstyle conceivable. Now my hair is short, unprocessed. Immediately before that, I had dreadlocks but I got tired of them so I chopped them. I will probably do something different in another 5 years. I love my hair but change is good to inject new life into a state existence sometimes.

Karen, 43, Female, Jamaica

I grew up with long hair, had to cut it when I switched to a catholic highschool - boys weren’t allowed long hair if you were mixed race or black. For years I waited to grow it back. I moved to Jamaica for university and grew it all back, 18 inches in 2 and half years. I was harder than remembered and wore the styles I once loved but they no longer fit my adult face. I tried new looks and all the while I couldn’t settle myself. Pain of combing, twisting, knotting I couldn't settle.
So I picked a look and stuck to it, I liked it, kinda, but everyone loved it: twists. I grew it longer and more and more I could control it. Dirt from sports, sweat from the sun, water, salt & pool - I wasn’t happy like before, but everyone loved it and I thought I did too. I then locked it, I thought it was the right choice. For months it was… what I wanted, right?
But I stopped one day, and I found an unknown barber, and cut it all away, felt my scalp all sensitive, so naked, like before. This look suit me to me, I was happier? right?
But no one liked it like I did. Oh well, I was happier…

Adam, 24, Male, Trinidad
#Religion #SchoolRules

So I always loved my natural hair but my maternal family didn’t as it wasn’t straight or jet black like theirs as our family is of a mixed ethnic background. For years they teased me about it and kept telling me I’ll never be beautiful as my hair was nappy. Years later I relaxed, well my mother did, she didn’t know how to cope with my “nappy” hair and despite it all, I still didn’t feel proud about it. I felt as it I was betraying myself by keeping it relaxed. So here I am natural again still getting side glances from from my family because of my hair but I don’t care as I’m proud of my blackness and I refuse to relax my hair to conform to their standard of beauty.

K., 23, Female, Jamaica
#SocialPressureFamily #StandardOfBeauty
#NaturalHair #Pride

The barber chair is sometimes the best place to be rebirth - No hair; don’t care

M., 28, Female, Jamaica


My hair started as a security blanket. It’s long and straight, dark brown and it used to be my curtain from the world. When I was 16 I moved in the States for school and I decided it was time to break the shield I had. I started slowly trimming one side and then shaving it off. I haven’t had long hair in about 5 years. It’s been dyed many colours and has become a feature and not something I hide behind. It’s been a long journey but it has aided me in loving myself.

Tamara, 24, Female, Jamaica
#HairAsProtection #SelfLove

My hair, since birth has been a means of identification, gratification and such. the first compliment I usually get is on my hair. My hair is really thick and therefore, I am afraid to do much with it but I love my hair and would never change it.

Iyanna, 14, Female, Jamaica

I've had long hair and short hair, natural and processed, coloured and not  
coloured. Right now my hair is relaxed and that's the way I like it... for  
now. I don't believe there's just one hairstyle per person. Natural hair is  
fashionable now... again.... and that's great. But sometimes I feel judged  
because I've chosen to go against what's in vogue now and relax my hair. I  
think that the reason a lot of women are choosing to go natural is because  
they don't want society to dictate to them what's acceptable. But at the  
same time, we should be careful not to let the pendulum swing the other  
way. We should all be free to choose what we prefer and if that's to  
process your own hair, then so be it.

Nicole, ?, Female, Jamaica
#NaturalHair #Relaxer
When I was young, very young, my hair was curled and I wanted it to be straight. Now my hair is straight - post-menopause - and I would love so much to be curled ….

G., 70, Female, Jamaica

I am Rasta. I remember when after three years of having locks I saw my mom for the first time in 4 years. We waited about an hour for her at the airport. I was nervous but equally excited. I had found my now husband (a rastaman) and through him I had also found Jah, then came my locks. My mother arrived from Canada and her first words were “Where is my daughter?
She touched my hair and asked me “Where is my daughter? What happened to your hair? What happened to you?”

X, 38, Female, Jamaica

I just broke up with my boyfriend. After hanging up the phone I took a scissors I went to the restroom I cut my hair. Then I took it in a bag to bury it in the forest with my feelings. One day later I flow to Jamaica to start a new life with new hair.

Silvia, 26, Female, Spain
#Change #Cut #ReactionToEmotions

I am pure african in my style and loves it more as I get older. My hair is natural short “Flannel Ball” style but with a little more than usual. I’ve inherited a perfectly round head from my late dad and so the hair style complements my features a lot. I’m proud of my heritage, I wear my style with great confidence and will always have it. All hair is good hair: we are created by God and beautiful.

Annette, 58, Female, Trinidad & tobago
#Short #Natural Hair #AfricaConnection

Before going to high school I always wanted to relax my hair at my mums disapproval. My mum eventually went on vacation and my aunt relaxed my hair without my mum’s approval but to my delight. After 2 years of relaxed hair & realising my hair wasn’t growing at the rate I expected, I decided to go back natural. I am no longer insecure about the texture & length of my hair. I am confident in what it says about my heritage & ethnicity.

Natalie, 22, Female, Jamaica
#Heritage #Ethnicity
#NaturalHair #Confidence


As a skimmer (black swimmer) to be exact it’s hard to keep processed hair. Why process it in the first place? To make it “straight” and more “manageable”. For only 2 years I had processed hair but after not much thought on whether I wanted to give up skimming for my hair, or “my hair for skimming”, I chose to give up my hair because skimming is my passion and I have learnt that my natural thick brownish black curly kinky hair is the best hair I would ever have. I don’t think I would “straighten” it again. I love my natural curls and I will continue to be the best skimmer with them.

X., 16, Female, Jamaica
#NaturalHair #Relaxer #SelfLove

Growing up I was allowed to grow my hair slightly but high school rules prevented this & I had to cut it down to 1 inche for 7 years, whilst other groups (Asians & Indians) were allowed to keep their hair at much greater lengths. After high school I’ve grown my hair out and cut it several times, but always of my volution to many mixed reactions. Curly, unrully, wild, fluffy are among the terms I hear. Within the family is where I get the most opposition, but professionally it’s never hindered me, and now it grow it out of love and to show I can work with or without it. Archaic stereotypes must die out.

Karl, Male, Jamaica
#SocialPressureSchool #SocialPressureFamily #Stereotype #SchoolRules
#SchoolRules #DifferentOriginDifferentRules
#Gender #LongHairForMale

My dad said if we ever colour our hair, he would disown us. My sister reminded me of this about a decade ago.

Carol-Anne, 34, Female, Jamaica / USA

My hair symbolizes my beauty. It shows of my strength & womanist features in every way possible.

X., Female
#Symbolisme #HairIsBeauty #Womanist

I’ve always had brown hair but growing up in Jamaica people with light skin & brown hair were called dundus or albino. Later as a teen I wanted my curly semi negro hair to be straight, so I processed it to be like the white people. At age 33, after a series of unfortunate events, I decided to go back to my roots of my brown semi negro curly hair. I get compliments everyday! “I wish I had your curls” or “Your Hair is so pretty”. It’s from this that I learnt to love my hair and love the natural colour & love me.

Tami, 35, Female, Jamaica
#NaturalHAir #SelfLove

I was raised Bobo-Shanti Rasta spending my early years in Bobo Hill. We migrated to the U.S. With age I became disillusioned with organised religion and the patriarchy to which most subscribe. When I cut at age 20 strangers stopped me in the streets to ask why.

Aisha, 40, Woman, Jamaica / USA

I have locs & I lace them. They are a part of me & have a life of their own. I have considered cutting them or going back to an afro by loosening them. However, I have decided to let them live to grow free down to my ankles. The energy. The antennae. The vibrations. I believe that my frequency stays high because of my thick, beautiful locs. Jah know.

X., 31, Female, Jamaica
#Religion #Energy #Spirituality

No one combed my hair on a regular basis so it was relaxed at a very young age, then jerry curls (it grew) then relaxed again, it never grew. Did the big chop Aug.17.16 and it is quite lovely. Soft, wild and free. Fit for a Gemini like me. Struggling to maintain it but it is definitively worth it. To be Black & Free !!)

Kacy-Ann, 21, Female, Jamaica
#NaturalHair #Freedom

I always had natural hair, but there were times when I straightened it, during that period, when I had straight hair, I believe there was a more refined beauty. However because I am very dark skinned, black, Rastafarians especially would compliment my skin, my “Africanness” and all I seem to represent. Now I have gone back to my natural hair, but with a new perspective where I appreciate the beauty I was born with the kinky, unruly hair. I was created with it growing from each of my pores, it’s my peel and there is no imperfection in it.

Lexine, 19, Female, Jamaica
#NaturalHair #MyNaturalBeauty

For Christmas, I gone my boyfriend the gift of shaving off my beard, leaving only a moustache. I had completely forgotten that my beard made me look like I actually had a jawline. Returned to my tabula rasa, I had to come to Jamaica for some time to grow back. Now my jawline (like a push-up bra) has a story for itself.

S., 23, Male, UK
#Beard #BodyHair

My hair is my beauty. I try to express my personality through how I wear my hair. I continue to think maybe if they focus on my hair they won’t see my claws :)

Abigale, 18, Female, Jamaica

My hair is part of my beauty! I am my hair. It was mid length. Now it’s shoulder length. It was black & brown, now it’s black only. My hair is fine in texture & smooth. It brings out my true feeling of how to be touched, feel, seen.

C., 25-35, Female, Jamdung 

I decided to grow my hair out in the 2nd year of medical school. I didn’t realise how having African hair in line rows (?) would draw such negative attention among my peers. Doctors are not allowed to express themselves. 
We conform to traditional societal views.

Jason, 25, Male, Barbados 
#SocialPressureWork #Gender 

Growing up I always had persons play with my caucasian dirty blond hair. comments like Never cut it, “Oh you have “good hair”” or “is it real?” It was always thrown my way. And I never understood it.
What is good hair? The type that behaves and lays flat and limp with no body or haphazard movement that bounces with every wisp of wind?
I’s always dream of curly hair. At least then I could be two persons in one.

Anya, 22, Female, Trinidad
#Straight #Curly

I love my hair. It says a lot about me. It’s strong. I take very good care of my hair. I love when it is well kept. If nothing else is together, my hair has to be. #My Hair Is Me

Althea, 40’s, Female, Jamaica
#Identity #Security
#MyHairIsMe #If nothing else is together, my hair has to be

I never had the luxury of “going natural”. Growing in New Testament Church of God believing household there was no real choice. It could only be natural. I’m grown now. Free to make my decision I wish concerning my hair. But I keep it natural. I’ll keep it that way. It’s the pride and the struggle of it all that keeps me keeping it this way. It’s the pride and the struggle of it all that keep me from letting anyone touch it. There’s too much history in this coils. I keep them sacred.

Dahlia, 19, Female, Jamaica
#Religion #Sacred #Pride #Struggle

Didn’t value my hair until I got old & my hair started to grey & get thin. I’m afraid to go bald.

#Bald #HairChangeWithAge

I always hated my natural hair and struggled with insecurities. What made it worse was my dark skin… I processed my hair thinking that it would make me feel better but it only caused me hate what I’d become. I started to feed myself with black beautiful women, So I would feel the same. Now I’ve been natural for 2 years and I love it. It has made me a beautiful young lady and I profess it in my art pieces. Now I am an African Queen, using my natural hair as a symbol of natural beauty. People ever compliment me on the fact that I am natural and how I haven’t adjusted my skin tone. #BlackIsBeauty #NaturalIsBeauty

K., 16, Female, Jamaica 
#NaturalHair #HeritageAfrica
#BlackIsBeauty #NaturalIsBeauty

I have, throughout most of my life, had my hair long or (more recently) shoulder length. I remember being so proud, at age ten, being able to braid it down back, by myself. It was always so thick and healthy, brown with natural auburn and lighter highlights. Once (in my 30’s), I had it cut very short (almost shaved in the back). I went to see my sister in Calgary, and when I got off the plane - she didn’t even recognise me. In fact, she thought I was a famous Canadian singer: K.D. Lang. The other thing I remember from that time of my hair cut so short was when I went out to a club, dancing with some casual women friends. The crowd pulled away, and I realised they thought I was gay - and for them that sparked revulsion. I was not used to that reaction, that identification - Why aid it bother me? Why did I want to protest it?  I learned, that evening, about myself, about how my hair informs, and about others. I was given a brief window into what it means to be other. Because of the context, because of my hair.

X., 54, Female, Canada
#Gender #Stereotype

For almost 16 years I cut my hair very short. I shaved them, in a close shave. They are natural. I like the character that this hairstyle gives me, certainly in opposition to the very common desire to have "long hair". My femininity doesn’t define by the length of my hair. Definitively not!

Florence, 43, Female, Martinique
#Gender #Femininity 

I have beautiful brown hair which matches my hazel brown eyes and my beautiful long legs. My hair was on the mirror and so were my tears in 1983. My mother was mad mad mad. I was sad sad sad. 
1984,85, 86, 2011, 2012
My husband was shocked and so was I my hair fell from my shoulders to the ground, where was my hair? It could not be found once again. My hair is on the rebound.

Venice, 48, Female, Jamaica

So I had a convo at the gas station when the pump attendant admired my companion’s hair. I told her to do hers like it - she said she’s waiting for her hair to grow. That was weird cos her hair was long so I asked “how long is your hair?” she reached almost to the base of her hair and said “this long”. I immediately wondered what she looks like without her “hair”.

Pew, 50-60, Male, Jamaica
#Extension #Weaves #Long #Short

This is my second time growing my hair. Also my favourite time. This time it’s for certain. But it didn’t start that way. I was in cold country toiling away away, with no barber for miles around. And then the hair came, and warmed my head. I vowed to love her back, she’s made me more beautiful yet.

Paul, 30, Male, Jamaica

I have 3b/3c natural hair. I use to want to relaxed/american hair but my sister always told me not. I believe that my hair represent how proud I am of my culture and heritage. I have always loved my hair but now I love it even more

Britania, 16, Female, Jamaica
#Culture #Heritage

I’m a free spirit when it comes to my hair. Sometimes it’s long/short and always coloured. Like they say your hair is your beauty. So I shine (?) mines. :-)

Sharlene, 27, Female, Jamaica

My hair was locked when I was about 4 years old. I cut it when I was 6 and then it has been growing since then. I grow my hair now and then with natural products. People always ask me how do I take care of it! “Does it pull your head” and a lot more. My hair symbolizes my religion. I am a Rastafari Christian. I am a vegetarian because we believe in levity. I love my hair so much.

Cyrandea, Female, Jamaica


I am black. They say my hair was tough. Dry head - a dassa.
But it’s not.
It’s beautiful.

Jenna, 14-18, Female, Jamaica

When I was about 13 I had my naturally kinky hair straightened to make it easier for me to manage on my own. At about 16 I decided to grow my hair out and cut off my processed hair. This process taught me to be strong in my choices and my standards of beauty for myself because I got comments from so many people, young and old, about why it would be a bad idea to transition back to my natural hair. After I cut off all the straight hair it took a while for people to accept it, but I learnt that if you act like something belongs for long enough, people will either start to believe it belongs too, or get lazy trying to convince you that it doesn’t. My fro feels like a part of me now.

Courntey, 21, Female, Jamaica
#SocialPressure #Resistance #Patience #Confidence
#NaturalHair #Afro

I have naturally curly kinky big hair that I now love. But for years I didn’t. I wanted waves + uniformed curls. At age 12 I got my first relaxer. At age 15 I cut that all off. But still I was not comfortable with my hair texture. Then at around 18 I started growing locks which I loved for around four years. Then I missed the loose texture + the dreads felt heavy, hot + I felt burdened (?) In 2011 I cut the locs off + freed myself since then. I have coloured, straighten + shaped + styled my hair. Now I feel free without label + without restrictions.

Chantal, 29, Female, Jamaica 

My hair is “mixed-race hair”. My parents are both mixed (black & white) and so are my grand parents. 
I have been asked many times “do you straighten the back?” because my hair is two different textures. The front is wavy and more curly/coiled and the back is straighter and curly. It is brown with blonde highlights, and last summer I dyed it pink. This summer, I want to dye it violet/blue, or just bleach it. For 6th form, I’m going to cut it to my shoulders. People have told me not to cut it, and that I look like a lion when it is out, but it will grow back. I love my hair, and I am very proud of it. One day, I might shave it, or get an undercut. But not today.

Laila, 16, Female, Jamaica

I grew up seeing my dad with a low but full beard. I could never see myself with anything more than a goatee as I thought more would betray the clean image of the man I was and wanted to be. My dad passed away a few years ago and now it’s a forgotten thing to be clean shave. I frankly love it. You can call me Moses!

André, 35, Male, Jamaica 
#BodyHair #Beard 

In my heart as long as I can remember I was a Rastafarian…. but was not allowed to practice then as my family look down on Rastas. 
I went to UK at the young age of 14. Always know I would locks. Again me working environment look down on Rastas. However I reach the wonderful age of 40 and though enough was enough, took out my long weave, started my locks, but was so afraid to venture out, how was I going to explain my short little twist to my White colleagues at work. 
After 2 days, I venture out and the 1st Man I met was a Rasta and his 1st word was “Welcome Empress”. I have not look back since…. love me and my HAIR for once!!

Pauline, 57, Female, UK
#Dreadlocks #Religion

First I had relax my hair as I entered high school, not really have an appreciation of my natural texture, then fast forward to my college day and seeing my sisters natural texture I was curious to see my own. This journey from transitioning to being completely natural came me a sense of confidence, patience and self-love. I love my natural hair and all the trails & error and learning that came with it.

Kadesha, 22, Female, Jamaica
#NaturalHair #Confidence #Patience #SelfLove #LearningTrail

My hair has plaits and flower, Jamaica colour beads.

Zarina, 5 1/4, Female, UK

Just starting to see the true beauty in me, my hair is my crown in glory, creating to see it true potential.

Mazazai, 24, Female, Jamaica

For most of my adult years I never know my strands, my natural strands of hair. What they felt like, how they curled when wet and how strong they were. In 2013 I stopped processing my hair for no other reason than it didn’t feel normal to me anymore. Now I feel like me. I wear my hair free. Curls in the shape of a crown on my head. An African Queen.

#NaturalHair #AfricaConnection

My hair is looked at as a way to identify me. I usually don’t identify with them conclusions.

A.R., 32, Female, Trinidad

I have been growing my hair out every chance I have gotten and it is the most amazing feeling when I am in a car and the breeze blows through my hair. My grown hair causes many conflicting emotions as it is quite strenuous but I love my hair regardless and can not imagine cutting it.

A, 20’, Male, Jamaica

I always had long - what people would call - “good hair”. A little curly (sometimes very curly), Indian-ish, but enough coarseness to represent my black. People obsessed over it and I just always saw it as hair. Then I grew ill and all of it fell out. ALL OF IT. I am now bald. But it has created a greater strength in me than I could ever imagine. Not just bald, but BOLD… and beautiful!

Emily, 32, Female, Jamaica
#Lost #Bald #BaldBoldBeautiful

My locks began to grow to show my courage, help me to take the stand I want to take, it is my identity of resistance from many stereotype that women/female is place in. After 2 decade we now have a relationship. I love my locks, we come this far it is my spiritual antenna.

Mau Mau C, 100+, Mother, Africa New
#Gender #Spirituality #Resistance

Half black, half white. Hair too curly to be straight, too straight to be curly. Mastering the in-betweens. Living the BEST of both worlds.

Jill, 60’, Female, Jamaica
#Curly #Straight

My mother had perm my hair since I was 11. Now I am 19 and I am currently going back natural. I want to grow my kinky hair and be playful with it. I believe that is a way accepting your culture.

Madden L., 19, Female, Jamaica
#NaturalHair #BlackHair

Every institution wants me to cut it and I cant understand why.

Y., 18, Male, Jamaica
#Social Pressure

I am the Ethiopian-American woman. I had in mind to tell you about Ethiopian hair practices, but here's what  
came out instead. As a mixed-heritage person, my hair is also mixed. A lot  of hairstylists don't know what to do with it. One thing I have found, though, is people are not shy to comment about my hair.

Things that people have said about my hair (an abbreviated report):

"You have beautiful hair, don't cut it."
"Is your hair naturally like that?"
"What do you do to your hair?"
"I can fix your hair."
"Let me brush your hair."
"Stay still."
"When you wear your hair down, it makes your face look too thin."
"I don't think I've ever seen your hair down before."
"It's poufy."
"You have nice hair."
"Try coconut oil."
"Try relaxer."
"Very thick."
"Who did your hair?"
"Does that hurt?" (Yes, yes it does)
"It will shrink and curl up."
"Your hair is very long."
"Did you cut your hair again? It looks short."
"I liked your hair better before."
"Your frizz is sticking out again like sun rays."
"Wow. Your hair really IS curly."
"You have straight hair."
"That will not work with your hair."
"See? Now it looks beautiful."
"Don't wash it for at least three days after this."
"This will make your hair smooth."
"Women only cut their hair short when there is something wrong."
"Why did you cut your hair?"

Rebekah, 30's, female, Ethiopia-US, Jamaica
#MixedHeritage #Comments 

I never realized how much of a thing one's hair is. I loved having a lot of hair & kept it as long as it would grow. It was even longer when it was processed, but I eventually decided to cut it off & go natural because of concerns about the chemicals used to straighten. This was a major step that  did not come easy. I had it cut at a new salon that I had gone to have my  hair styled for a wedding. I went back home without my hair, but it was  quite interesting for a while. It was easy; one could wake up & go almost; it was so short it would not look uncombed. I soon missed my hair & after a long while managed to grow it back, but it was hard to manage, but I'm learning. Mistakes were many & I have bags of hair at home as testament to my abuse & improper treatment which resulted in gobs of hair being combed out. I'm not sure why I have a fear of throwing away my hair. On occasion I  have burnt it but I continue to keep it when I lose a fair bit.  
Surprisingly it does not look thin & it has grown longer than before. I have two long plaits today & of course some people will ask if it is my hair. It irritates me at times but I have become more open & will share my  thoughts on black hair which grows like any other & will flourish if treated well.

Lorna, mid-50', female, Jamaica
#NaturalHair #BlackHair #Lost

In Japanese anime, supernatural and horror films, hair — long, black, flowing hair, and even the bangs and fringes of shorter hair — allures, conceals, and deceives. It can literally shade or partially mask a face, simultaneously enticing and foreboding, suggestive of hidden power, danger, or eroticism. Hair tossed dreamily in the wind; or submerged in deep black water, winding, flowing and knotting. Hair can indeed be seen to articulate a whole sub-language within cinema and literature, life and dreams. In my own dreams, hair has always been acutely significant in similar ways: intimately entangling, silky soft to touch (and needless to say — the hair is usually attached to a girl). It is thickly plaited with bewitching, haunting images. The mysterious qualities of hair seem infinitely entwined with dreamlike resonances.

Alkan, 42, Male, Australia

I have natural hair and often love to change my styles regularly, it's a way for me to be expressive of the moods i am in as well as just have fun. I have a album on my FB page which shows various different hairstyles. 
Often people ask me if it’s a wig or weave because it is long and I am "black" plus i constantly change the color or even the texture (straight to curly to wavy to ...) but it’s always MY hair. I will never be an "unbeweavable" girl! Straight from the root only! 

There have been many occassions where people touch my hair, even without asking me, maybe thinking I will not feel it....the polite ones will ask first!

When I was 30 I cut my hair into a bob which was "short" seeing that before it was  down to my chest. I decided that finally I was a full grown adult and it was MY hair, that I could decide for myself, despite of all the frenz and family asking me to keep it long. Or as they love to say in  JA ..."tall hair" 

In 2013,i had a really difficult year, I went through many different challenges! So i  cut everything off down to 2 inches of hair. At the time my hairdresser did not want to comply so i just took the scissors and cut a big piece out of the front of my head and then said ..."FIX the rest".   It was a new beginning , a fresh start, A REBIRTH!

charlB, 47, Female, Jamaica
#NaturalHair  #Diversity

When I was 13 a friend and colleague of my father came home to cut our hair, since that was cheaper than going to the hairdresser. I wanted to please my father, and I asked to have my hair cut short. He thought that was a good idea. Once my hair was cut, I found myself horrible. I cried. It was a real torture to have to go to school, wearing my hair like that, and to have to let it grow again. Since then, I have never cut my hair shorter than shoulder length. I believe this will stay the only attempt in my whole life !! 

Isabelle, 44, Female, Belgium
#Short #Try #HowToAssume 

My kids think its creepy that I cut off a little curl from their babyhair and tied it with a little string and keep it, just as my mum did with us. Also my mother used to have a tiny ladies purse crocheted out of human hair from some ancestor in the 19th century. We value hair in Europe just like in other cultures but why I do not know! Maybe it contains something of the soul of the person it belonged to.

Ingrid, Female, 50's, UK
#Culture #Symbolism #Memory #Personal

I love my hair and people are so annoying with their questions like: why your hair so long, why you cut your hair, why your hair so curly, why why why why...but guess what, it’s my hair not yours...MINEEEEEESSSS, FI MI!!!

Anonymous, Jamaica 
#Identity #PersonalNotPublicMatter 

As a mother to two bi-racial children (1 boy and 1 girl)living between Kingston, Jamaica and Brooklyn/New-York (US), I find I get two distinct reactions to my children's natural hair depending on our location. In Brooklyn, words that have been used to describe my children's hair include: beautiful, fun, awesome. In Jamaica, the words are: untidy, unkept, unruly. It has been suggested that I keep my son's hair "low" meaning shaved close to the scalp. My daughter's hair is always described as being "uncombed" which I have come to interpret as "unbraided" because it is certainly combed and styled every morning. 
Different culture, different  perception.

Corey, 40's, Jamaica-New-York 
#Culture #Cultural Perception #Natural Hair 

My grandmother always said my hair was badly dressed. For her, our hair was well dressed only when we had a neat straight line in the middle, and tidy hair on either side of the line. I preferred to have a bit of a ‘blurry’ line, which I always found prettier. 

Isabelle, 44, female, Belgium
# Gender
#Generation #DifferentEstheticStandard

One day when I was an adolescent - and during a period where I was a little "lost in space" - I had the spontaneous idea to shave my hair completely, which until then I had always worn more or less long … When looking in the mirror afterwards, I saw myself as a sick person, looking lean and not very happy. For almost a year, I wore a black bowler hat to hide my mistake, my teachers at school even allowing me to keep it on in class (I really must have looked a little frightening without this headgear! ) 

C., female, 40 years, Belgium
#Shave #Bald #Try #HowToAssume

I guess the outside world notices my hair more than I do… the big bet outta road is « watch, yuh nuh know har, shi soon cut dat off, or duh some odda ‘madness’ to it ». To the outside world, mi a mash/pwail up mi good hair, when others a struggle with them god-given dna. When all I do is journal my explorations of beingness through my body, of which my hair is a part. From learning the symbolism of colors, to trying on the stereotypes of gender identity and confusing the borders of sexuality, sporting fads blindly/mindlessly, feeding a need of belonging, to dressing on the rebellious spirit of my ancestry and running from and returning to roots… my hair walk is one that can never be stagnant because the only constant in my life journey is change and ‘mi body mek fi express such experience’ and mi hair is holistically part of this lab experiment wi call life.

Lee-Kim, Jamaica
#Identity #Gender #Culture #Lab

There is a whole story going on between my hair and myself. A story between long and short, between curly and straight. When important events are happening in my life, one of my reactions is to change hairstyle and often to cut my hair. It is as if through this act I have to "mark" a change in my life, as if I need to show it physically, either by affirming the change, or by turning a page, or by trying to become better, in short a change in life comes with a change of hair look. 
In the past I have permed my hair, to make it even more curly, and I have shaved my hair, but not everybody is like Sinéad O'Connor, a bald head is not easy to wear. I have had a straight bob cut using a blow dryer, but I did not know how to maintain it, I have had very long hair, medium long and short ... and often I’m dissatisfied after a few months.

Nadine, 57, female, Belgium / Burkina Faso
#Change #PersonalLiveMarker #Straight #Curly #Short #Long #Shave 

I’m an African male living in Kingston. I’m wearing dreadlocks and I’m always surprised that people, here in Jamaica, relate them to the rasta religion and culture only, whereas so many different people in for example Africa wear them.
When focusing on Kenya only, in the Giriama culture (tribe from the Kenyan coast), the widow wears locks. 
In the sect of Legio Maria, a dissident sect from the Catholic Church, which initiated among the Luo tribe (the tribe of origin of Obama’s father), the men are wearing locks.
The Akorino people (a religious group) are wearing dreadlocks under a turban, like the Bobo Rasta. 
The Wadawida (Taita) (living at the border of Tanzania), to whom I belong, wore locks for beauty.
The Turkana people (North of Kenya) wear locks in a Mohawk style.
There are the Mau Mau as well, Kenyan freedom fighters,  who  wore dreadlocks fighting the British. 
But not the Masai (who are better known), who wear extensions.
And in Senegal, the Baye Fall (an Islamic sect) wear locks as well. 

Mazola, Male, 52, Kenya-Jamaica
#Dreadlocks #Africa #Culture
Back to Roots
When I was growing up in my hometown Guatemala, I was the only kid with black hair in my school and in my neighborhood. You see, my black hair comes from my father who is a black man. My mother a kind, smart and beautiful Guatemalan woman never knew how to manage it, usually the best she could come up with was a classical afro puff with a ribbon on the side.
My hair was the talk between my aunt, mom and cousins. They would gather around trying to figure it out how to make it nice and straight, more “Guatemalan” I would say. I remember feeling a little envy of my friends at school and their pretty pony tails. I felt like a little boy with my short hair not to mention the bullying from boys in my neighborhood shouting things at me like “you look like a microphone! Hey Ms. Microphone 1, 2, 3…check check.”
Then the teenage years came and went and the black hair continue to be more and more annoying. I dreamed about the day I could make it all straight and “normal”. The day I graduated from school my sister gave me as a gift a hairdresser appointment to straighten all my hair. I was the happiest person the day I ran my fingers through my soft flowy hair.
Several years forward I got the opportunity to move to Jamaica for work. Back to roots my friends would say as my father’s side is Jamaican. Little I knew that the road back to roots didn’t just mean discovering my family roots. I also meant rediscovering myself and letting the old me emerge. Yes, the girl with the microphone looking head is emerging again but this time is different. I don’t feel ashamed or awkward, I feel balanced and proud. My hair speaks to my identity and the language it speaks it rich in culture and knowledge.. 1, 2, 3…check check this is my roots, this is were I belong.  

Anaitée, Female33 years old, Guatemala - Jamaica
#Identity #Heritage #Roots #Proud
One day my boyfriend decided to cut his dreadlocks. I had always known him with them. Suddenly he seemed so fragile to me ...

C., 40, Female, Belgium
#Symbol #Strengh #Dreadlocks 

It is said that hair is the first adornment of women.
The continuity of energy coming maybe from the sky.
Where I come from we say that when a man pulls a tuft of hair of his wife, this is grounds for divorce.
A married woman cannot cut her hair.
During her menstrual period, a woman doesn’t dress her hair
After delivery, it takes forty days before a woman takes care of her hair.
For major festivities women let their hair exposed to the open air during forty-eight hours, before braiding it.
It is said that "to know the mood of a woman, look at her hair and its health."
A woman who makes her prayers is not allowed to have her hair out in the open air.

Soueloum, 60’s, Male, Tuareg of Mali
#Culture #Society #Religion #FirstAdornment #CulturePractice 

For at least 22 years I have shaved my head, scraped off my 'good, curly, mixed-people hair' down to the scalp, with no more than 1/2 inch of fuzz left. It is glorious and freeing everytime. With every haircut I release the societal pressures for long, straight hair which equals maximum 'feminine' power and I reject expectations of me as a mixed heritage girl, to play my 'hair privilege' card. It is easy and gives me a different sense of self and confidence. I dance differently, with greater abandon and swear my sense receptors open also. Spiritually, my head becomes like an antenna and I have to box away hands from randomly touching my spiritual seal. My hair story changes, though, when I miss movement and rhythm around my head, the vibrancy of my curls (which I did not always appreciate, having been taught to envy the white girl straight hair which seemed to signal the ultimate freedom), the militancy, individuality and rebelliousness of my locs, the urban funkiness of hair colour, braids, canerows and my signature mohawk. For a while, I grow it and experiment with this acceptance and celebration of self, knowing that when I need a clearing, a reset, a newness, I will pull out my shears and bless myself with a new head.

Neila, 30's, Female, Jamaica
#Identity #SocialPressure #Gender #Culture #HairReset

My hair and I, a long story. I think it was through my hair style that I was searching (quite hard) for myself. As a child, I wore my hair very long, afterwards I wore it shorter and shorter. The shorter my hair was, the more I confirmed myself. With or without gel, with or without fringe, red, black, indigo, pink, I have tried all colours. Until the day when, by dyeing my hair so often, I became allergic to pigments. No longer able to dye, I started amusing myself with different cuts. I wore a crest and then, WHAM! I shaved everything! ... That’s when, without adornment, I finally discovered who I was: a young woman being a little lost. I even told myself that my hair took away my vitality. I kept it shaved for a year or so. A crazy year full of twists and turns. And then the calm set it ... I left my hair in peace, it has been growing gently and since then, although I still like to comb my hair differently according to my mood, it stays in harmony with myself. My hair has always been a reflection of my state of mind.
Today, white hairs start appearing. I know I have to live with them. I try to tame them with serenity.

Marie, ?, Female, Europe
#Change #IdentitySearch

At the age of 12, I had long hair. I asked my mom, who was also the family hairdresser, to cut it short. When my dad came home, he was not happy at all: a girl must have long hair ... 

V, 40', female, Belgium
#Gender #Protest

have smooth blonde hair. During my travels in different African countries, I often feel aggressed when, out of curiosity, people come to touch my hair (even if I can understand this curiosity). This always gives me the impression to be a freak.

C., 40, Female, Belgium 
#Culture #CulturalEncounter #Blonde 

About four years ago, i started to feel like i did not look as how i saw myself. I got up one day and decided to find a Barber to have him cut my hair, i woke up with the photo in my head of how my hair should look and when i got to the barber i told him what to do. He shaved the sides of my head and i told him the top was to stay as is. When he was done, i looked at myself in the mirror and for the first time i recognized "myself", he said, "you look like a boy now" and i smiled and replied "YES!"

C., 30’s, Queer, Jamaica 
#Gender #Identity 

Went to the hairdresser with my sister. One time only and just for fun, we got our hair straightened with a flat iron (that's not our style, normally just natural). Walk home and being called a slut in the street, clearly linked with our hairstyle.

V. & P., 35-40’s, Female, Belgium 
#Stereotype #Straight

I started to grow my locks in 2007, while I was in college. I locked my hair, pulled the locks out, locked my hair again, pulled the locks out again, to finally let them grow. Growing locks teaches me patience.
I wear lock for their beauty and as a symbol of strength. I have no intention to cut them. People often ask if they can touch them, also if they are real, I guess they suspect I’m wearing extensions.

Paul, Male, Jamaica 
#Symbolism #SymbolStrengh #Dreadlock #Extension

My dad whom I asked hair stories: "I not going to tell who is giving me white hair, do I?” 

X., 73, Male, Belgium 
#Symbolism #WhiteHair #SymbolTrouble 

Just after I was born, at a Christian hospital, the nuns showed me to my mom, saying "don't worry, he is not a redhead, he is not a redhead!" My mom looked at me and told the nuns, happy and proud, "but no, he is a redhead, and that's great!"
At that time, popular and narrow minded belief saw red hair as a connection to the devil.

Hans, 47, Male, Belgium
#Symbolism #Red #SymbolNegative 

I once had green hair ... But for much of my young to mid-life it was thick long blonde.
It then skipped gray and went directly to white.
A few years ago, a young man asked me if I dyed my hair that wonderful color?? (Is there anyone in the world that would think to dye their hair WHITE??!)
Short now, and trimmed by me. I love it ease ...

C., 60’s, Female, Jamaica
#WhiteHair #Short

My hair is gray and right now it is almost down to my shoulders but not really by choice. I have been in Italy this time for 3 months and don't want to try and explain to an Italian hair dresser how I want my hair cut.
When I was in my early 20's a patch of white hair began to show in a streak on the right side of a middle part. My grandmother had the same white streak as long as I can remember. I didn't mind it. I didn't dye my hair until I was in my 40's but only because I wanted a change. What a huge expense and a lot of bother . The white streak would begin to show in about a I was constantly needed to color it. So I stopped, cold turkey. Now living in Italy I see elderly women in their 70's 80's maybe older with red hair or coal black hair and when they pass me on the street they look up at me in horror. It is not a common sight here. But all I see the faces of these women are faces lined with age like mine that stand out sharply against their unnatural hair color. The hair color does nothing to make them look younger... they just look their age with unattractive hair.

Royane, 71, Female, Italy-US 
#SocialPressure #Identity #WhiteHair #Dye 

I grew up in the 70s when Bob Marley and the Rastafarian movement was in ascendancy. Dreadlocks represented power, rebellion and a absolute cool that only a reggae star performer could conjure up. But alas, genes worked against me and I started losing my hair in my 20s, rapidly! I remember rubbing my hand across the top of my head and seeing at least ten strands of hair left deserted on the palm of my hand. The demise continued and today I am left with a Hippocratic Wreath which is a fancy way of saying you have hair only on the sides and back of your head. I still have not totally got over not having dreads. Sometimes, I dream of having dreads and I wake up happy!

David, 50’s, Male, Jamaica 
#Symbolism #SymbolPower #SymbolRebellion #Dreadlock #Loss 

I’ve had dreadlocks of various length for more than 20 years, but I practice zen, so am not attached to them :)
While I could happily have short or no hair, I feel like my hair is a kind of connection to the more beautiful aspects of Jamaica and it's culture (call it livity) - and also enjoy not having to think about haircuts or styling :)

Omar, 40, Male, Jamaica 
#Culture #SymbolLivity #Dreadlock #Easy 

Since the age of 16 I nearly always dye my hair using henna (a plant making it turn red). Ever since I love and hate its smell. I do not like the smell of fresh henna too much, it being like a kind of stinky manure, but when it starts to fade, my hair having been washed many times, and the rain wets my hair, it emits a fine odour that I adore.

Julie, 37, female, Belgium
#Dye #Natural #Odor
Once accepted, (though DNA' has not much choice about it...hereditary speaking) being bald young is not so bad !
The good thing about receding and very short haircut is that you will look like being 40 years old from 30 to 50 years old which is a nice 20 years without bothering about it ! In the meanwhile your hairy friends are tuning grey and it shows ! When you see them after a while it is impressive how some people all of the sudden are appearing looking oldish with their grey hairs...with short hairs or no hairs it doesn't show... no hairs no problems!

Pierre, 40, Male, Belgium
#Loss #GreyHair

When I was very young, my hair was thick, long and chestnut colored with waves that cascaded down my back. One day, when I was about ten years old, I sat at my mother's dressing mirror and cut it all off. I was/am always impatient and I wanted to be grown thinking back, I cut my hair off so I could be older...and of course my mother would never cut my hair there was a huge defiance in my act too. She wept when she found me. 
From then on I looked at my hair as a work in progress. Color, permanents, cutting, growing.
After my father died, I shaved my head and moved to Jamaica. It grew in silver, except for a patch of chestnut color along the very back of my head. A reminder perhaps of my
youth. Now, I am letting it grow long....but then maybe one day, I will take up a scissor and cut it all off.

Suzanne, 67, Female, US-Jamaica.
#Short #Long #GreyHair #SymbolEmotion 

I discovered my first strands of white hair when I was 27. I have dark hair, so they were really visible. I have pulled them out, one by one. Now there are too many of them to continue this process. Some of my friends “suggest” me to dye my hair, because they think the white strands are ugly and are making me look older. It seems that becoming older is not fashionable at all. I’m 42 years young/old now and still haven't dyed my hair, hoping it will turn grey completely, or, even better, bright white at once, skipping the grey intermediate steps ... 
Veronique, 42, Female, Europe
#SocialPressure #WhiteHair

My Jamaican niece lives in China. She wears dreadlocks. She says that people stop to ask her to touch her dreads and take pictures. There are not many blacks in China but it is not the color that intrigues them, it is her hair.

Marvette, 55’s, Female, Jamaica
#Culture #CulturalEncounter #Dreadlock

At the age of 30, after 15 years of wearing my hair more or less short, I decided to let my hair grow really long. After an ugly transition, when my hair reached mid-length, I got sick. I had to take drugs that made me lose a lot of hair. My hair turned ugly again, so I cut it. 
Since then, the disease has stabilized but I never really cut my hair again. Although I like to change the way I look a lot, something is holding me back. It seems as if my long hair has become a symbol of my victory over the disease.

M., 40’s, Female, Belgium 
#Symbolism #SymbolVictory #Loss #Long

During my travels, when I’m brushing my hair, I consciously put the loose strands somewhere in a specific spot or let them go with the wind, thinking: a bit of me will stay here. Today, I am all over the world.

Valentine, 40’s, Female, Belgium 

When my daughter was born my hair fell out by the handful, as if all the strength and energy I had needed to create and carry her went away with her arrival. At first I wasn't bothered by it, but as my hair fell out more and more, I was almost frightened by my thinning hair and disappointed in my body for letting so much go. Eventually all my hair grew back. One day walking down the street I impulsively went into a salon and dyed it. I had never dyed my hair before, I was always "lucky" to be a natural blond. But somehow I felt compelled to dye my hair at that moment, as if to say to myself your hair is your own, you're not just a mother.

LS, Female, Jamaica and Philadelphia 
#Identity #Blond 

I once owned a mourning ring with plaited hair in the back. It was beautifully plaited, behind glass, in the inside of the ring, with a stone on the outside.

Sally, 70’s, Female, Jamaica

Whereas my hair (long natural brown hair) can provoke sometimes reactions in some parts of the world (people touching it, asking me if it’s mine, mentioning the fact that some of it is turning white), my partner’s dreadlocks nearly always provokes reactions, wherever we are, even in our home country (Belgium). From simple curiosity (which can go quite far sometimes: in Cuba, a woman set up a whole scheme trying to take a picture of herself with my partner, without him being aware of it) over fear and near panic (in Burkina Faso, at a time where he loosened his hair, some people got very frightened), to straight rejection (in Turkey a number of men came to explain, repeatedly and not always very kindly, that men really couldn’t not wear long hair) and systematic police or custom control, wherever we goes. Here in Jamaica, where people in the street are called by their most visible characteristic, I’m called « Whitie », whereas my partner is called « Rasta », his hair (and what it could means here) apparently being a more important trait than his skin color.

Véronique, 40’s, Female, Belgium-Jamaica 
#Culture #CulturalPerception #Dreadlock #Gender #Stereotype 

Charlotte had long dreads. She eventually cut them entirely, tired of the stereotypes into which people tried to lock her, as well as of the many police controls she had to undergo. To keep her dreadlocks, she made a wig out of them.

Charlotte, 30 's, Female, Belgium 
#Culture #Stereoptype #Memory #Wig

My maternal grandmother had a series of wigs she wore to hide her gray hair. In her bathroom she had about 3 or 4 of them, exposed on a row of scary looking white heads 
made out of styrofoam. When I was a little boy this confused me a lot, as if I had a real grandmother and a few fake spare ones.

Hans, 47, Male, Belgium
#GreyHair #Wig 

Long time memories from when I was 7 or 8 years old, living in the countryside. Summer and tall grass. I always dreamt of having long hair, something which my mother wouldn't consider for me. Secretly I made myself a ponytail out of weeds and clothespins !!! I felt beautiful, at the same time having the vague feeling of breaking a taboo. Maybe the taboo was not as strong as my imagination wanted me to believe, because later I let my hair grow for real!

Anne, 65, Female, Belgium 
#Gender #Short #Long #GirlDreamLong #ShortEasy

5th April 2009 For someone whose long, thick curly hair has been a part of her identity for two decades, knowing that I was about to lose it was a big thing. A few weeks before chemo started I went to talk to a wig specialist to see if he could make a wig out of my own hair. I liked the idea of still having my hair, but being able to take it off at night so it wouldn't get all tangled and knotty. Best of both worlds! However, I was discouraged by the price and the time it would take to make it (a couple of months). Also, the wig-man told me that wigs made of natural hair are more difficult to maintain, especially if they are as long as mine. He suggested that I cut my hair before the chemo starts, plait it and store it in thin paper. This will keep the strands in order, so that if I decide to make a wig out of it, I could.
He advised me to try a synthetic wig that was close enough to my current hair. He put one on my head and both my partner and I began laughing: it was one of those '80s big-hair' hairstyles like the ladies in soap series like Dallas or Dynasty used to wear. I asked him to try a straight blond bob, which is a polar opposite of my own hair. I looked ridiculous. We couldn't stop laughing making the shop keeper quite unnerved. These wigs were cheaper than making one from my hair, but I still couldn't quite see myself walking around with any of them. I looked at a few other examples, but all of them made me look like a fifty-something, rich, daft, suburban cougar.

I didn’t buy any of the wigs, but followed one advice of the "wig wallah": once the chemo starts, my hair would become lifeless and filled with toxins. I thought I had a few more weeks left to enjoy my long hair, but I would have to cut it before the process started. I felt quite defiant: no chemo will touch my hair, I'll cut it off before it has a chance to destroy it. Hah!

Today - one day before my first chemo session - is The Hair Cutting Day. I woke up extremely nervous. It felt like I was about to kill a part of me. I saw my hair as if in a flashback movie: spraying sea water after a dive as a teenager; a tangled mess of hair and sweat raving in my twenties; strands caught in a passionate kiss and caressed by different lovers; caught on film in a photo shoot; sat on in busses, pulled by hairdressers, stray hairs encrusted with dust on many floors around the globe… I got out of bed and had a bath. My hair was floating around my head like Medusa’s snakes. I brushed it one last time. Brushing was always difficult, but this time I enjoyed it. I said good bye to every knot, knowing that it was never going to come back again.
I plaited the untangled strands and put on a green velvet dress. My long hair was the last remnant of my years as a goth, with a fascination for all things medieval. Without the long hair, my goth look would finally disappear. Before it did, I completely immersed myself in its melancholy. I listened to Stevie Wishart's Viriditas, from a compilation of Hildegard von Bingen, with lyrics celebrating the greening energy behind all life. I lit the Night Queen incense and sat on the couch mourning my loss while sipping tea. By this time my partner woke up and was ready to begin the cutting. "Ready?" he asked. "Nearly" I replied "I just need one hug before we start." He hugged me then for a long time, stroking my soft, nearly a metre long curls…
Disentangling from my embrace, he sat me down next to our long dining table, where he was going to lay out the lengthy strands. He stood behind me with the electric clippers and began shaving the back of my neck. I kept my head down. To begin with I could only see hair in my field of vision. As the strands were cut, more of the world was becoming visible. I saw the bundle on the table getting bigger and noticed tears dripping in my lap. I felt as if my youth was being cut away from me, so abruptly. I was silently crying and my partner kept carefully cutting, with Viriditas playing in the background. It was a beautiful moment. Ruthless, intimate and tragically romantic. As with any moment, this one came to its end when the last strand of hair was laid on the table. It was time to lift my head and show my face. A face without a frame. He came to face me and lifted my chin. I opened my eyes to look at him and thought - if I see a disappointment or even a small hesitation, what shall I do?! But he was smiling, then laughing, and finally said "you look fifteen years old!"
We both laughed on the way to the mirror, where I cried some more, this time more from relief than sadness. It wasn't so bad after all… I carefully packed the hair bundle in gift-wrap paper and two long wine-bottle bags, placed it in a box on the bottom shelf and closed the cupboard.
We went for a walk a little while later. My head felt amazingly light and fresh, with the new sensations of wind and sun on my scalp. I still have about a half a centimetre of hair, but it’s quite a change after "carrying" heavy hair on my head for so many years. No hours of brushing, no hair lumps on clothing, the floor and the pillows. I wondered why I waited so long to cut it...

Three weeks later…
As I was sponging myself the morning after my second chemo session, a bunch of pubic hair came off and got stuck in the sponge. I passed a wet hand over my head and a whole handful of hair stuck to my palm. Even though I cut my hair to less than a centimetre, it still felt quire revolting and looked worse. My reflection in the mirror reminded me of photos from Auschwitz in the second World War: patches of thin hair revealing scabbed bald scalps, greyish skin, deeply sunken eyes with dark purple circles around them. In disgust, I shaved my whole head with a razor.
On my good days, I manage to look like a bald alien queen from Babylon 5. I like the idea of being bald, but I didn't realise how cold it would be. I even have to sleep with a beanie or a scarf. So, instead of the bald alien look, wearing wigs seems to be more a successful tactic.

After my first unsuccessful wig shopping, I went to a place where wigs are fashion items rather than a medical necessity. In Matonge, an African neighbourhood in Brussels, wig shops are plentiful and the wigs cheap and very diverse. I spent hours trying on different colours and styles, and found a few priced from as little as 10 euro. I could have 30 wigs for the price of one 'medicinal' one. My plotting and scheming started: I always wanted to have straight hair and a black bob, like Vulcans in Star-Trek. I went to a theatre shop and found one just like it. A few weeks later I found another one that was similar to my own hair, but cut in the burlesque style of 1920s. My brother bought me a bright pinkish-red bob, that was so cheerful that passers-by would often smile and ask me which hair dye I used. When I felt nostalgic for the length, I bought a long hair piece that I plaited inside a hollow hat. Then a friend gave me a tacky blond wig, that transformed me into an eastern European lady of the night. I had lots of fun changing my appearance after years of being imprisoned by my long hair. Without it, I felt free to explore, to change every day (sometimes even more than once a day), to see how my features and even my gestures changed with different looks. I also enjoy observing people's reactions. My friends sometimes don’t recognise me on the street.

Three months later…
My eye-lashes stopped growing for a couple of months, but now a few rebellious ones began growing again. They are white, sparse and of varying lengths. Some are even double or triple their usual length. They get stuck in my eyes when I blink. I can count the translucent hairs of my eyebrows on one hand. Not just my lashes and eyebrows began growing again. Patches of confused hair now grow as soft white fur on my cheeks and ears. I was looking forward to all of my hair being gone, which meant no shaving in the summer! Unfortunately, there is still hair on my legs, where I would have very much appreciated being completely smooth. I imagined that chemo would kill all my hair, but instead my body decided to surprise me with out-of-control single hairs and uncomely hair patches. It seems that my hair is one of my most resilient body-parts. Not even chemo can eradicate it!

One year later…
Exactly one year ago, one day after the second chemo session my hair started to fall out. Now, a year later it's back with a vengeance, rapidly growing into thick curls. With my newly discovered pleasure of going to a hair dresser, I’m changing styles every couple of months and dye it different colours each time. So far, I tried purple and red. The only problem is that the toxins are still seemingly lingering in my body, as the hair-dye behaves erratically, surprising both the hairdresser and me. We never know what the final result will be. The doctors say this will improve in time. When? Who knows. It might take years for the last traces of toxins to drain out of me. Perhaps then I will be able to grow my hair long again. Perhaps then I will become strong and healthy again. Like the biblical Samson. Perhaps…

Maja, 42, female, Belgium/Croatia
#Identity #Loss #Wig