A zine by Mayowa Omogbenigun
Mayowa Omogbenigun email: firstname.lastname@example.org tumblr: zinesbymayowa.tumblr.com instagram: mayowa_reads
CREATOR'S NOTE Hair is a constant for any black woman. From when we were young, we were taken to get our hair done and learnt how to maintain our hair. We sat for hours, sometimes in a lot of pain, to get the perfect braids, cornrows or even just to get our hair just like the girls on relaxer packets. We were taught from a young age that hair was important for us as black women and more specifically, for Nigerian women. From when I was very young I remember my mum taking me to the hairdresser's to get special braids for a birthday or a blow-out for Christmas. I remember the first time my hair was relaxed and all the times my scalp was damaged because of relaxers. I remember how fearless I felt the day I went to my salon and shaved my hair off. I remember the confusion when I was faced with the task of taking care of my new natural hair. I remember white stares and white hands in my hair. I remember feeling isolated, alone and angry. I questioned a society where being happy with your hair in its natural state was taboo or even political. I learnt from early on that for me, hair was political, social and economic. My hair had much more to do with just me; it was a reflection of history. I remember looking at a picture of Lauryn Hill and deciding to get dreadlocs. I remember looking in the mirror for the first time and feeling like I looked exactly how I was supposed to look. For black women, hair is such more than just hair. It is community, it is excitement, and it is our crowning glory. Every Nigerian women, regardless of how rich or poor she is, takes time out to get her hair done. This summer, driving through the streets of Lagos, I decided that I would explore the relationship the women around me have with their hair. It is important to note that as a woman who is privileged financially, a lot of the women I'm surrounded by and was able to interview have a similar background and so their answers are not reflective of the population. Some of the other photographs of women were women who agreed to have their photos taken and as a result are more diverse. The scope of this zine is too small to be representative of the entire population but I hope the reader gets an insight into the institution that is hair and the role in plays in the life of Nigerian women. Mayowa Omogbenigun
1. What is your earliest memory of your hair? The earliest memory I have of my hair is using copious amounts of gel to tame it. I grew up in London and I wanted my hair to look like everyone else's. 2. Do you think your hair is reflective of who you are? Yes. I like the dynamism, just the ability to change it to whatever I want it to be. 3. What hairstyle makes you feel the most beautiful? Long braids make me feel like a queen. 4. Do you spend a lot of money on your hair? Why? I spend a lot of money on my hair because I get very upset when it doesn't look or feel healthy and beautiful. 5. Is hair maintenance important to you? Hair maintenance is so important to me. When my hair breaks it's like a piece of my heart gets deleted.
6. What is the first thing you so to your hair everyday? I put coconut oil on it. 7. Talk us through your day and night hair care routine. I don't really have a routine as such. I just try and keep it hydrated and clean. 8. Are you emotionally attached to your hair? I am very emotionally attached to my hair, to the point that I'm a bit ashamed. 9. Have you ever felt that you had ugly hair? Yes, when I was much younger, I thought my hair was ugly and stringy. 10. How do you think people perceived you when your hair is like how it is now? I don't know, but I hope they think I look beautiful. 11. Do you think people perceive you differently when your hair is done differently? Yes, definitely. When I have a weave, I feel a bit more objectified, I don't know why. When my hair is in braids, I feel strong and resolute, and I think people perceive me as that. When my hair is just natural, I think I'm perceived as a much younger, unassuming woman.
1. What is your earliest memory of your hair? I have two. The first is my mum using a hot comb to straighten my hair and I remember feeling the heat on my neck. The second is one I think every Nigerian female child experiences, which is sitting on a stool facing your hairdressers skirt and inhaling her bodily scent... both I think were at around age 5. 2. Do you think your hair is reflective of who you are? Yes and no â€“ my hair is never perfect/always almost rough or just plain rough and I think that reflects how scattered yet held together I am. I also consider myself a 'creative' and like a lot of creatives my space is always messy yet I know exactly where everything is. 3. What hairstyle makes you feel the most beautiful? To be honest, when I have my natural hair out and it behaves itself and I can pack it up and hold down some parts with some eco-styler, I be feeling hella' pretty! 4. Do you spend a lot of money on your hair? Why? Not really, to be honest I spend the bare minimum, purely because I don't really know much about hair and I'm not that fussy about products or hairdressers. 5. Is hair maintenance important to you? Maintenance... I mean my hair always needs to be clean and smell good, but in terms of like having a maintenance schedule... itâ€™s not that important.
6. What is the first thing you do to your hair everyday? Put some cream/oil in it. 7. Talk us through your day and night hair care routine. I wouldn't really call it a routine; in the morning I massage some cream/oil in it. Maaaaybe gel my edges down and then go about my day. At night I do the same thing without the edges and wear a silk bonnet/scarf to sleep. Unless I have braids, then I only do a morning oil. But I'm literally the worst like I almost always forget to wear a scarf/bonnet to sleep. 8. Are you emotionally attached to your hair? I think a little, but only because I just like to have it there, I don't love my hair or anything, but I'd be upset if it was gone. 9. Have you ever felt that you had ugly hair? Ugly? Nooo, I just wish it was longer/grew faster. 10. How do you think people perceive you when your hair is like how it is now (now being how is was when you were photographed)? I think people think I'm really alternative/creative/slightly crazy because of how long it is. People always ask me if itâ€™s difficult to handle. 11. Do you think people perceive you differently when your hair is done differently? Yes definitely, first of all because I look different ages depending on my hairstyles and sometimes I look significantly younger than usual.
1. What is your earliest memory of your hair? I remember my mother dividing my hair into four sections and twisting them. She would finish off the jumbo twists with hair pretties (as we used to call them) or hair bubbles. My mummy would do my hair all the time and she took very good care of it. My four twists were my signature style when I was little. 2. Do you think your hair is reflective of who you are? Of course! Very much so. My hair acts like a mirror for my emotions. How I choose to wear my hair is a clear reflection of how I wish to be addressed. When I wear my own hair out, it is often left to air dry and most likely looks frizzy. This is a look I enjoy because my hair is free and full of volume. It expresses my creative side, a side of me I seldom show. When my hair is in braids, it is always in a ponytail or pulled off my face in some sort of fashion. This expresses how serious I tend to be in daily life. I am a no-nonsense-get-the-job-done type of person so hair in my face is a big no-no. The health of my hair also reflects my physical health. 3. What hairstyle makes you feel the most beautiful? The natural way my hair falls after it has been air-dried. So no style really, just my big hair in all its frizzy glory. 4. Do you spend a lot of money on your hair? Why? Yes I do! I spend money on my hair because maintaining health is very important to me. If that means spending a little bit more on certain products then I will do it. Most of the money spent on my hair is on braids, wigs or weaves. I think that if you want to get a certain look you may need to spend more money.
5. Is hair maintenance important to you? Yes it is. I believe that healthy hair is crucial in having a healthy lifestyle. Hair is often manipulated in ways that are detrimental to its health, especially coarse hair textures. So I take my time in ensuring that my hair is healthy and clean. I often dedicate a couple of hours during the weekend to give my hair some TLC. 6. What is the first thing you do to your hair everyday? I apply hair lotion to maintain moisture and then I brush my hair into whatever style I choose to wear that day. 7. Talk us through your day and night hair care routine. My day routine is very simple: moisturise, style and go. Most mornings I try to get out the door as quickly as possible so I keep hair manipulation to a minimum. At night I tie a scarf around my head like a hair band and wear a bonnet on top of that. My routines are quick and easy to do to accommodate a hectic college lifestyle. 8. Are you emotionally attached to your hair? Yes and no. Yes because it's a part of body and my identity, the way it looks is a direct reflection of the type of person I am. No because as India Arie puts it, ‘I am not my hair’. 9. Have you ever felt that you had ugly hair? Not at all because I do not let social or ethnical pressures affect how I view my hair's beauty. Sometimes I think that black girls that still have relaxed hair are looked at though a negative lens. I believe that my hair is unique and fits me just fine without anyone’s approval or disapproval. I have learnt that what I choose to do with my hair is just that, a choice. My hair is relaxed and I enjoy the texture and versatility of it, even though it is permed. 10. How do you think people perceive you when your hair is like how it is now (now being how is was when you were photographed)? Having my hair in braids doesn't usually get polar reactions from people. In Lagos it’s very normal and maybe even mundane. However when I leave the shores of Nigeria my braids tend to draw more attention than I thought they were worth. I am often perceived as a woman that is grounded in her culture and black identity when I get to America. I think I am seen as young woman of colour that does not wish to be discounted or undermined either because of her gender or race.
11. Do you think people perceive you differently when your hair is done differently? Most definitely! I think people act differently around you when you wear different hairstyles. The funniest part is that they probably don't even know that they are doing it. Certain hairstyles attract more attention than others while some are more ‘professional looking’ than others. I think that’s the cross we have to bear as African women. Having hair that can constantly change and having to explain why our hair looks different can get tiring or even frustrating. Yet I have found that being born with thick dark hair has given me the opportunity to share a piece of who I am everyday with others without saying a word.
1. What is your earliest memory of your hair? My earliest memory of my hair is getting a low cut because I wanted to copy my older sister. It is not a good memory. 2. Do you think your hair is reflective of who you are? No. Regardless of how much value I place on my hair, at the end of the day I know it's just hair. To me it's not some kind of abstract representation of myself or anything. I would say that using relaxers or weaves are more reflective of someone's personality, as I believe that using sodium hydroxide to flatten out your hair or cornrowing it down to stitch a foreigner's hair (which looks nothing like your own hair) shows some kind of deep-seated dissatisfaction or even hatred of your own hair.
3. What hairstyle makes you feel the most beautiful? There's no hairstyle that makes me feel particularly beautiful, but I do take special pride in the hairstyles that I do myself that look nice. 4. Do you spend a lot of money on your hair? Why? I used to, in that I became a product junkie after watching Youtube videos where people were using all sort of lotions and butters on their hair. I have stopped doing that now, because I've realised that this lifestyle is expensive and I don't like eating white rice three meals a day because I can't afford anything else. 5. Is hair maintenance important to you? In theory it is. In practice, I often find I am too lazy to properly maintain it and spend minimal time on it unless I want to do something specific for an even or something. 6. What is the first thing you do to your hair everyday? Take it out from under a satin cap. 7. Talk us through your day and night hair care routine. Step 1: Remove satin cap. Step 2: Spray water and essential oil solution. Step 3: Seal with oil and moisturiser. Step 4: Repeat steps 2 & 3 as necessary during the day. Step 5: Put satin cap on before you go to sleep. (I don't actually do this everyday or night, but I probably should.) 8. Are you emotionally attached to your hair? Absolutely. Having been in positions where I have sacrificed my edges to incompetent hairdressers and about a fistful of hair due to poorly done faux-locs, I can say that the rage I feel when losing my hair is quite dissimilar to any other I have ever felt. I consider my hair my crown I would cheerfully slit the throat of anyone who tried to harm my hair with a pair of safety scissors. 9. Have you ever felt that you had ugly hair? Again absolutely. In primary school, I was one of the few girls that didn't have relaxed hair because my mother thought that young children shouldn't have relaxed hair. In addition to not having relaxed hair, my hair was also very short and as a result I was teased quite a bit about my hair, which made me hate my hair and I constantly begged to have my hair relaxed. Thankfully, my pleas fell on deaf ears and I was still not allowed to deep-fry my hair like dodo. Years later I didn't have to chop off my hair to transition like so many of my classmates. 10. How do you think people perceive you when your hair is like how it is now (now being how is was when you were photographed)? I don't give it a lot of thought because I honestly don't care. As long as my hair is neat, the rest is just extra. 11. Do you think people perceive you differently when your hair is done differently? See above.
WEEKEND IN GHANA
I went to Ghana for the weekend and couldn't help but take pictures of these three women. What I found very interesting was the use of wool as opposed to synthetic hair used to create these hairstyles. I think they symbolise the creative force that is black women. For centuries we've used materials around us to create the most beautiful and intricate hairstyles.
1. What is your earliest memory of your hair? I must have been about five years old. My hair was being washed, blow dried and put into two great big puffs for a birthday party. Of course it was 100% natural. 2. Do you think your hair is reflective of who you are? Yes. Itâ€™s always been done in a simple ponytail or the same braided style. 3. What hairstyle makes you feel the most beautiful? Itâ€™s got to be my full ponytail look. 4. Do you spend a lot of money on your hair? Why? I spend money on good products and going to reputable hairdressers. 5. Is hair maintenance important to you? Very. A full head of healthy hair is more important to me. 6. What is the first thing you do to your hair everyday? I brush it with a wide bristle brush when it is not in plaits or braids. I apply a little olive oil
7. Talk us through your day and night hair care routine. When it is not braided or in plaits – brush, oil and fix into a ponytail in the morning. At night, I plait it into 4-6 plaits for bed. 8. Are you emotionally attached to your hair? Yes! Definitely. I have had quite long hair most of my life 9. Have you ever felt that you had ugly hair? Never. I am blessed with a full head of soft hair. 10. How do you think people perceive you when your hair is like how it is now (now being how is was when you were photographed)? At the moment, I am growing out very long relaxed hair. I am trying to keep it healthy during that in between stage so its plaited the traditional “didi - shucku” style. Even though going natural is all the rage, I still get strange stares because my current hairstyle is so traditional without recourse to any extensions. 11. Do you think people perceive you differently when your hair is done differently? Perhaps. I think people feel that I am brave. Wigs & extensions are so common now that an entirely traditional hairstyle is still a little unusual especially when you are known to be a “corporate” person!
1. What is your earliest memory of your hair? My earliest memory of my hair was it being all cut off because I would cry so much when it would be combed. 2. Do you think your hair is reflective of who you are? Indeed it is. My hair is a representation of my history and my heritage and strength. 3. What hairstyle makes you feel the most beautiful? I feel the most beautiful when I have braids or when I have a twist out that comes out perfectly. Actually, I definitely feel more beautiful in a twist out because it is all mine! 4. Do you spend a lot of money on your hair? Why? I do spend a lot of money on my hair. I have never really spent enough time with my natural hair to have a steady routine, so during school I usually wear braids. Especially in America it is extremely expensive compared to in Nigeria. 5. Is hair maintenance important to you? I would certainly say it is, not only just externally but internally. Itâ€™s important for me to eat fruits and vegetables and also drink a lot of water, so not only caring for my hair but my wellness as a whole and I think itâ€™s beautiful that our hair reflects that.
6. What is the first thing you do to your hair everyday? When my hair is in its natural state like this, the first thing I do is take off my headscarf, and then undo the plaits or twists I put in the night before to see if the style came out 7. Talk us through your day and night hair care routine. I am still figuring out and experimenting so I do not have a consistent routine. However, I never fail to spritz my hair with water every morning and wrap it in a scarf at night. 8. Are you emotionally attached to your hair? I honestly think that I am a bit too emotionally attached to my hair. Whilst I feel like it contains my heritage and I should be proud of it, I struggle with feeling confident with my natural hair. Perhaps it is because as an extremely busy student and I havenâ€™t spent a huge amount of time with it out that I havenâ€™t found out which styles I like the most or perfected the art of consistent twist out, I wish I could say I was but sometimes it is tough to feel completely confident. 9. Have you ever felt that you had ugly hair? I have had natural hair all my life, but due to split ends and some heat damage this Christmas I cut it a lot shorter than I am used to. In addition as a solid 4c I have a lot of shrinkage, so I still struggle till today to feel completely confident about my hair. 10. How do you think people perceive you when your hair is like how it is now (now being how is was when you were photographed)? I think that perceptions fluctuate depending on what setting I am in. It is strange that despite being on the continent, when in Nigeria I can be perceived as being 'afro-centric' or alternative. Honestly, I am not too sure of what people think of me with my natural hair in college. 11. Do you think people perceive you differently when your hair is done differently? In general I feel a lot of positivity around my hair but certainly feel that in professional or classroom environments I am seen as more polished and perhaps less threatening when my hair is braided.
1. Why did you decide to go natural today? I just felt like my hair was really weak and so I just decided to go back to what people say is strong (natural hair). 2. Do you feel that people’s perceptions of you will change now that your hair is natural? Yes I think so. I think my friends at my school in England will be a lot more intrigued by my hair. Before it was straight but now it’s an afro and they will be very excited by that change. 3. Does that excitement irritate you? Sometimes because I’m just like, I’m not a science experiment so please stop touching my hair but sadly I’m used to it. 4. How do you feel now that you’ve done the ‘Big Chop’? Are you a bit nervous about what people will think or what people will say? I think that I’m a bit nervous about how I’ll look because right now I just have it in plaits but when I’m going to try to do different hairstyles how easy is it going to be? Am I going to have to change some of my usual hairstyles? 5. Would you recommend cutting your hair to any woman? How do you think cutting your hair has already impacted you? Was it liberating? Was it scary? It was a bit scary but after it was liberating because it’s like fresh hair, fresh you. It’s like a new me and now I have a lot more freedom and can do whatever I want with my hair.
1. What is your earliest memory of your hair? My earliest memory of my hair is quite unfortunate. I just remember getting my first perm and then all of the long-locks that I inherited from my mother were severely damaged due to the relaxer. As a result of that, I had to involuntarily undergo the "Big Chop". So all of my baby pictures mostly feature some bald-headed little girl â€“ so sad.
2. Do you think your hair is reflective of who you are? I like to think so. For a long time I was my hair, if my hair didn't look good, I didn't feel good. To me, having good hair meant my own natural hair had to be covered in some sort of way whether it was through braids or a weave. "Sigh", I know better now.
3. What hairstyle makes you feel the most beautiful? For a long time, it was definitely that 20â€? Brazilian hunny! As of recent my natural hair has been coming in quite nicely and now I like wearing both.
4. Do you spend a lot of money on your hair? Why? Definitely! Once my salary comes in, the first thing I think about is what I am going to do to my hair. To a degree, I am still really connected to my hair and like I said, when my hair looks good I feel good. With that, I tend to spend a lot of money on it.
5. Is hair maintenance important to you? Extremely important because I spend a lot of money on my hair and making sure it's exactly the way I want it. When I say hair this not only refers to my natural hair, but my weave hair also gets the same treatment. 6. What is the first thing you do to your hair everyday? I usually run my fingers through it trying to de-tangle what I can without using a comb or anything. Other than that, when I have in a weave in, I use heat-serum on it and then I straighten it.
7. Talk us through your day and night hair care routine. Day: When I have a weave in, I finger detangle, straighten and slap on some edge control to lay my edges down for a more natural look. When my natural hair is out, I finger detangle then pour water and then add my Shea Moisture curly pudding into the mix to get my curls super popping! Night: When I have a weave in, I wrap my hair after straightening it the morning and tie a silk scarf but when my natural hair is out, I dab some castor oil on my edges and then wrap a silk scarf and head to bed. 8. Are you emotionally attached to your hair? I think so. With each new hairstyle I feel like I embody an entirely different persona. With a weave, I feel like super sexy and model-like. With my natural hair or braids I like to think I give off a very wholesome African-esque vibe. So really it's like "new hair, who dis?" cause I really dig both looks. 9. Have you ever felt that you had ugly hair? Before I started liking my natural hair, I definitely thought I did. I was always super selfconscious about my hair and what people would think and how I looked. 10. How do you think people perceive you when your hair is like how it is now (now being how is was when you were photographed)? Oh I get so much attention because middle-part weave has never done me wrong. People like the weave-look a lot on me because I think it really shapes my face and gives me that sort of model-look (in my mind lol). 11. Do you think people perceive you differently when your hair is done differently? At first it usually takes them a while to get used to it but because I only ever do 3-types of hairstyles that I feel work for me, they end up getting used to it and liking it down the line.
Mayowa Omogbenigun Summer 2016