Category Archives: Fro Talk

Style Review: Crowning Glory - Stratford East

Recently we attended the Stratford East theatre to watch Somalia Seaton’s acclaimed play Crowning Glory. The play ran from the 17th October 2013 to the 9th November 2013. Admittedly all we knew before going to see it is that it was to do with Afro-Caribbean hair and was highly recommended to watch. We were curious to see how a play like this would navigate such a political minefield.

 

Undoubtedly within the African-Caribbean community, how a woman wears her hair can be a highly contentious issue. What Seaton achieved with Crowning Glory, was a dexterous balance between highlighting these conflicts, exploring them, at times mocking or satirizing them, and still leaving the audience challenged in terms of their own personal convictions.

 

Something that highly impressed us was the breadth of attitudes towards black hair and race that the play really stuck its teeth into. There was no shying away from experiences such as the impressions of natural hair instilled in young girls in weekly battles with their mother’s combs, the discomfort, rejection and name-calling based on shade of skin, awkward attitudes of white people towards black hair, identity issues, and the exoticism of black women and their hair.

 

The commonality of these issues was really seen in the reaction of the audience to these scenarios. It was clear many identified with the scenarios portrayed and they vocalized this. Undoubtedly this was one of the things that made the play so powerful; it’s ability to mock and poke fun one moment, yet just as quickly switch lanes and pull you into the deeply sensitive and emotional undercurrent of the issues being portrayed.

 

Seaton’s seven female protagonists each represented a mentality or experience that black women (if not black people) everywhere, can relate to, including the white actress who was named ‘Token” in the play. What their monologues demonstrated to us was Seaton’s unapologetic determination to represent these common experiences just as harshly, raw, and uncomfortably as they often occur in real life. There was no shying away from the racism, bigotry, self-hatred, insecurity, brokenness, defiance, and pride the reality of these experiences epitomise in everyday life. There was no character that we could agree with completely, nor completely dismiss – even the token white woman.

 

Perhaps the aspects of the play that we liked the least, (notwithstanding we could see why they were included), were the video segments featuring real life women talking about their hair and beauty. We personally found them a bit distracting and not really as deep as we might have liked them to be in terms of adding to the play’s context.

 

All in all, should the opportunity arise again for you to see Crowning Glory, we would highly recommend it. Be prepared however, to feel uncomfortable, to feel nostalgia, to be forced to confront deep-rooted cultural issues and prejudices, to laugh, to feel like crying, and finally to leave asking yourself some difficult questions.

Edge Control!

This post actually comes as a public service announcement. You heard correct, we are providing a public service for those with afro hair! We have all had that stylist who did those senegalese twists too tight or scraped back your hair so that it was ‘laid to the gods!’ but also had your edges screaming for help. The other extreme is when you have natural or transitioning hair with a sleek weave and those edges just, won’t, lay. Here are our tips of how to keep your edges blossoming and under control.

1. Speak Up

It is your hair – the stylist will begin to learn about your hair from the moment that you have your very first consultation with them. You could have had the same stylist for years who knows what you like however, if its someone new and feeling quite tight you have to let them know that these are your precious afro edges and you do not want to lose them for anybody!

2. Edges Too Tight Saviour

So you have the weave in, it looks amazing and you look slightly startled but still smoking hot! The following morning the original pull on your hair hasn’t let up and you have a dull throbbing headache. Your hair has been pulled way too tight and you know it, so here is what to do next:

Option A: Take out the weave – this is normally the least desirable option but will literally take the excess stress off your hair immediately, completely minimising the damage, weakness and breakage that would have occured.

Option B: Salvage the style:

  • The first step is to get a protein rich moisturising conditioner and apply it to your entire hairline, ensuring that all of your edges are fully saturated.
  • Next use a fine natural oil such as coconut or argan oil – if you have it in a spray bottle that is perfect, squirt it along your hairline and gently massage it in.
  • Let this mixture sit in your hair for 5 minutes.
  • Begin to gently massage your hairline in small circular motions with the aim of loosening the braid.
  • DO NOT pull your hair out of the cornrow – this is likely to break it, however when the hair is sufficiently loose you can very gently tease some of those edges out.
  • Rinse the solution out of your hair.
  • Seal moisture into the hair with Black Castor Oil and allow your edges to air dry.
  • Repeat every other day for a weak, this should loosen up and fortify your edges so that when the weave is ready to come out of your hair, breakage has been kept to an absolute minimum and your scalp has not been left raw, inflamed or irritated.

3. Edge Control

Edge control can be a life saver if you use the right one. Many people use Eco Styler Gel which can come infused with natural oils such as argan oil. There are many on the market including Elasta QP Glaze, ORS Edge Control.

We however prefer a thick and non-greasy solution in small quantities which pulls back those edges and keeps them pulled back: Avlon Keracare Edge Tamer

It retails at around £9 in the UK and can be found at most of the non-speciality Stockists on Style My Fro.

4. Pay Attention

Do you know what type of hairline you have? is it fragile or does it break easily? You must pay attention to your hairline because it is often the most fragile part of your hair. See those follicles as the soldiers on the front line, anything that is going to damage your hair will normally get to them first. This includes excessive pulling into tight hairstyles, lack of moisture, incorrect hair products, irritated or damaged scalp or excess heat. Get to know what type of treatment your hair loves. Did you know that you can regularly condition just your hairline even when it is not washday – try it.

5. Jamaican Black Castor Oil

The whole team (even the guys) at Style My Fro swear by the benefits of Jamaican Black Castor Oil. Not only does it feel fantastic on the hair, the smallest quantity a day can really improve the health of your hair and keep your hairline in check. Guys, try a little JBCO on that hairline after a shape up and see how your hair improves too.

6. Sleep Well Wrapped

Try and add a silk wrap into your night time routine so that your edges are not rubbing against the pillow – this also helps to keep your edges lain in a particular direction the following morning.

 

How do you take care of or control your edges? Let us know. 

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Do western ideals dictate acceptance of African origin style/fashion?

The past few years have seen the emergence and rising profile of African designers, fashonistas and even solely African influenced fashion shows within the Western world. One such example of this is the highly successful Africa Fashion Week in London (Started in 2011) that has enabled those who are African and inspired by African culture, to showcase their designs to a rapt audience of various cultures and backgrounds. It has been a refreshing platform and contrast to the homogenising Western ideals of fashion and style we are bombarded with every day. Furthermore, there has been a surge in blogs, Youtubers, etc, catering to Africa origin style and fashion, contributing to a growing sense of vocal pride in showing off African origin culture and style. Perhaps it is this determined and visible passion for our history and culture that has attracted Western designers in Louis Vuitton and Céline to select “Ghana Must Go” bags as a focal point for their collections (although this has not been explicitly cited as the source by either brand).

 

Personally when I first heard about the Céline Fall 2013 collection featuring clothes with designs based on the designs of the GMG bags, I was concerned. Furthermore after looking up images of the designs, I was appalled. I know high fashion can be a bit whacky and that half the clothes models wear on catwalks no-one would ever wear in real life, but these designs were abominations. The actual bags themselves have more colour coordination, cohesion, and beauty in them than these designs. I’d rather poke three holes in a bag (one for the head, two for my arms), wear it upside down like a dress, and go outside than wear any of those designs.

 

The existence of the collection just brings up so many issues for West Africans in particular. GMG bags are iconic bags of mockery to Nigerians and Ghanaians. When Ghanaians who originally fled Nigeria due to political unrest were expelled from Nigeria due to rising tensions between the two governments, Ghanaians were sent packing in these bags. There was a serious stigma attached to owning these bags. Most recently, that stigma has been watered down, but the bags are still a source of mockery and derision when brought out and used. Even in other cultures where they are used, they are seen as the ultimate dispossessed peoples accessory. Moreover, one wonders if Louis Vuitton or Céline designers knew of these contexts behind the bags, and if so, why did they decide that made them a fantastic inspiration for a fashion collection? It smacks a little bit of Western romanticism of other cultures with no regard for the true history or background of things. It could even be said there was a hint of arrogance in assuming that such a collection would be welcomed and hailed as innovative. Personally as an African, I could never wear those items of clothing (putting aside the fact that they are hideous), as it would make me a laughing stock. Which again raises the question of who were these clothes being made for? Certainly not any African. Certainly not anyone who has had to move about like a refugee from place to place. I’d be interested to hear from any African, particularly Nigerian and Ghanaian, who would wear these clothes.

 

Some people may say ‘It’s not that deep’, and perhaps it isn’t as the Céline collection does not in anyway shape of form even allude to the fact that the inspiration behind these designs are the GMG bags or dispossession. But most Africans who saw them would recognise instantly where those designs came from. Just because a piece of clothing or bag has “Céline” on the label and is called “check” or “jacquard check”, will not change that fact. So potentially what we have here is not only the appropriation of what is pretty much an world-renown inner-continental joke among Africans as a whole, by Western fashion, but also the apparent and perhaps clever omission in the official fashion press of this fact and the iconic bag that inspired those designs. As if denying its associations makes these “prints” something new, fashionable, and finally acceptable to the world as dictated by the gods of Western fashion and style.

 

Ergo “Ghana Must Go” bags now become “check” and “jacquard check”, and what were once and still are a joke on the Earth’s biggest continent, are now acceptable patterns of Western high fashion and style. And yes, some may argue that it’s not fair to infer that these designers are essentially pilfering aspects of African culture, remixing it and presenting it as innovative thought without acknowledging the source – it’s your opinion, you’re entitled to it, but I’m afraid I don’t agree.

 

It would appear that even in the midst of greater exposure, more platforms, and more freedom in which to share our creations, in order to reach those stratospheric levels of recognition, African origin style and fashion is still subject to a Western seal of approval.

Writer: Tols M