Play Untangles Mystery of Black Women’s Hair
Originally published on Medium.com. Interested groups can book future runs of the play at https://www.hairitagetheplay.com/tour/
Black women and their hair have long been the source of joy, sorrow, ridicule and question. Our hair is well over a billion-dollar industry, and many documentaries, books and panel discussions have been produced about the matter. In the form of a play, Niccole Nero Gaines’ “HAIR’itage” attempts to untangle the subject. From weaves, to mixed hair, to bold afros and luscious locks, Gaines provides historical context and necessary dialogue about black women’s hair for a diverse audience. Long thought of as a mystery for those outside of the black race and even black men, the play answers the “what’s the big deal” question surrounding black women’s hair through dance, soliloquies and all too familiar scenes. If you didn’t know the tangled history of a black woman’s hair before the play, you leave with a better understanding of how what most consider an aesthetic matter affects so much of black women’s careers, love life and self-worth.
The first scene is one of the most important, where we see the beginning of the slave trade in America. Standing in fear with their hair matted and half braided, the decision comes from white slave traders to cut the women’s hair. This symbolizes the “cut off” from their various cultures in order to conform to a life of slavery.
Black hair forces many topics to be discussed in Gaines’ play, even sexuality in the black community. Hair is not the source but a symbol and barrier in one of the more emotional scenes with a character named, April, described as a beautiful “he/she”.
Of course we have softer funnier scenes such as getting the first perm, discussing appropriate hairstyles/colors for work, or even waiting for the arrival of our loved beauticians. We resonate with the lady with the locks not wanting to everybody’s sista, but a respected, loving and sexual woman. The play also follows the journey of the lighter skinned girl with “good hair” shunned by her own peers, convincing this particular character into a life of promiscuity.
In Manhattan, Jade Davis, AnnMarie Sykes, Ahmadi Aydelott, Afia Henriques, Kymbia Ainsworth and Cynquel Davis execute a phenomenal job executing various different characters (and hairstyles). Gaines leave her audience with a message validating the claim that whether deciding on a bold fro, colorful wigs, locks or even straight hair, there is no hairstyle that will make you “blend in” as a black woman, and though it will be journey, you must learn to be confident and excel in your own skin and hair.
Additional info: Over the past five years, Gaines has traveled to New York, Atlanta and Maryland with this play and plans to extend as well.
More info about the play can be found here: https://www.hairitagetheplay.com/
Author: Taylor Tiamoyo Harris
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