Letter to Team AfroDeity:
I have recently worked on a project I would like to share with you, I call it Nzoussi, it explores the stigma around black/African hair
About the project
The pictures I have attached are of my niece (her name is Nzoussi), my lovely niece wearing her lovely, natural and organic long hair (which she hates and resents, only God knows why).
I was lucky to have taken these photographs as this was one of the only few rare times she was not wearing a weave/extension.
The time I spend at home (Congo) with my extended family is always a mix of excitement, happiness and frustration. I fail to understand how can a lucky girl like my niece not embrace her natural hair, kinky Afro??? Instead she wants soft and smooth hair. Not even my compliments would make her change her mind.
I couldn’t help it but to engage by asking her the infamous question “who taught you to hate yourself?” According to her girls with fake hair get more attention from men and women and look better… the worst is she truly believes that Caucasians and Indians have it better in life. It makes me sad, but again, I’m only a man, what do I know about combing and managing black hair?
I think the problem goes deeper, as I observe the Congolese society.
My Salon de coiffure project already tackled half the problem as the photos showed me that most hair salons only advertise light skinned models with fake hair and as a result girls are discouraged to do it any other way. They believe that to be seen as beautiful they need to straighten or hide their natural hair by any means.
There is also the problem of status, Indian and Brazilian hair costs a fortune so being able to afford them says something about your income bracket. Believe it or not women with natural hair are seen as lower class citizens because according to the society the only reason they don’t have fake hair is simply because they can’t afford it.
Our media is still predominantly Western content driven, from news reports, movies, series…Caucasian looks are still seen as better. Congolese female TV anchors wear fake hair, women in government administration the same story, the higher the position the more likely they are to wear expensive weaves and Brazilian hair.
It’s hard, if not impossible, to undo a belief when you are seeing the images all around you.
I found myself asking the question, what are you to expect from a 20-something, when her first toy was a blonde doll and not a brown one?
My anger and disappointment just vanished; I remember telling her that I love her regardless, I don’t love her any less when she wears her fake hair.
Robert Nzaou-Kissolo is a Congolese photographer based in South Africa.