BALOBESHAYI

African Women Voices

Los Angeles is not all about Hollywood and celebrities, there is so much art to explore. Take the Museum of Folk Art, where I met an extraordinary artist: Sonya Clark who usually works with fabric but presented an exhibition about the relation between hair and identity. 

This is a very close subject for me, an Italo-Congolese grown up among girls with straight-easy-to-comb hair, who at some point decided to get rid of her everlasting braids and celebrate her natural hair.

For me that was the definition of identity, accepting my African roots. Although for some this wasn’t the case. I remember meeting a Congolese woman volunteering in a second-hand shop in Wood Green, London. She was approached by a colleague who was chatting with me and who introduced me as a Congolese as well. The woman looked at me as you would look at an alien, and said: “I wouldn’t say you’re Congolese because of your hair!” 

I choked a “seriously?? you are wearing a wig!!!” and smiled calmly. 

But that told me something about the different ways people define themselves. I came to realize I didn’t need fake-straight-hair to feel better about myself. For someone who might be different, fair enough. But don’t try to tell me my Congolese roots are better or worse visible because of the style of my hair!

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