Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dominican hair salons, hair products, women and their hair are notorious as homes of the "dubi", and an entire range of deep-relaxing products. I have had my fair share of traumatic Dominican hair salon experiences over the years. I grew up going to the hair salons with my aunt. We went there for everything from hair washing to deep conditioning to hair straightening to - yes - haircuts. I used to have burn marks on my ears from the hair dryers (the ones that go over your head), and I was one of the lucky ones. However, I stopped going to Dominican hair salons (in New York and the D.R.) after I cut my dred locs off. I think I just got tired of the trauma of it all. That last time, I had to spend 20 minutes convincing the stylist that my hair is indeed CURLY so that she could cut my hair accordingly. She didn't understand why I had dred locs in the first place.

I know I'm not alone. Plenty of sistahs in the D.R. go through the same thing and worse. Ginetta Candelario has done whole studies on Dominican hair salons and cultural expectations/transformations in the U.S., so I won't go into it here. And I wrote an essay that was published in Blackberries and Redbones (ed. Spellers and Moffit) a couple of years back that talks about how women's "presentability" (yes - with all the class, race, gender and age appropriate assumptions that you think would go into that kind of categorization) and economic sustainability in the Dominican context. So...imagine my JOY to see this video report - posted on Yaneris Gonzalez Gomez's page (thank you), which covers two resources for women who want to keep their hair natural: One to One Hair Salon (Santo Domingo, DR) and Go Natural Caribe (webpage).

Kiini Ibura Salaam, who did a student exchange program in the D.R. and wrote a very significant article on her experience, points out one of the main challenges for women of African descent who go to visit the Dominican Republic from the U.S....I'm not saying that her concerns are addressed, now, eight years later, but I do think that Dominican women, on their own terms, are defining new parameters for their struggle. Check it. (Sorry if you don't speak Spanish...I will try and put translation here soon...or maybe, you can learn Spanish.)

Monday, September 05, 2011

Mark Bradford changed my life. I was in Chicago, on the train out to Oregon, this past summer. There just happened to be an exhibit of his work up at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. I was only in Chicago for a night, part of a day, and so I had to go and see it if it was the only thing I was going to do while there. The show comes down on September 18, and I only wish I had told more people about it sooner. What moved me about his work were the varying textures. You could feel sorrow, anger, irony, challenge embedded in the texture of the papers layered with paint and other materials. I could have known about him sooner, as he is one of the artists featured in the series "Art 21", but I'm just glad I know about him at all.