The Kindumba project was originally started by Angolan photographer Alice Marcelino. When I came across her photographs, I was taken aback. I wanted to continue what Alice had begun.
I sent a different image to some of my favourite writers. I asked these poets, journalists and writers how each photograph inspired them. They have written their responses below each photograph.
This project is about representation. Hair is an important part of the identity of any person. These replies from people from the USA, Europe and Africa reveal the diversity and richness of the experience of having black hair.
Alice Marcelino: The Kindumba project was initially meant to explore the relationship between African and African descents and their hair. It became a celebration of its diversity and beauty.
Kindumba means ‘my hair’ in Kimbumdo, one of the two Bantu languages from northern Angola. I wanted to challenge the conventional view of beauty but also to promote a discussion about concepts of blackness.
The idea was born from my exposure to the black cultural diversity I found in London, particularly in Brixton where I live.
It is connected to my own experience and part of the journey I made to understand the reasons behind the collective anxiety about our natural features.
‘when you name your mane, you know it’s more than just hair. an extension of your identity, an element of your crowning glory. with the right twist/curling gel/heat product, it can be anything you want it to be. you make the statement and others must listen. a chore sometimes, but it’s worth the reward.’
will you continue to twist and twirl
dance and coil
in defiance. (?)
wrapped tighter than
snake skin around my neck.
what are glorious waterfall of wool
you’ll be when unravelled.
In 2015, I feel I am at peak self-awareness as a Black Man. Especially as a CREATIVE black man in media. It’s like… knowing that they emulate and admire and vilify our every move is one thing, but representing the most accessible source they have to all of that… is remarkable (for better or worse) when you are mere feet from them. The admiration is as palpable as the fear. To be educated & black is truly to be a weapon in America.
On the topic of love, I have also reached an apex, where I am completely unshakeably convinced that the perfect compliment to my journey & existence is without question a Black Woman. One who is as aware of herself as I am (of myself); one who knows she is a weapon, and a treasure. I crave that bond that ties everything together from ancient to present, that ‘home’ feeling knowing you can connect over virtually ANY touch point of the diaspora. The commonality of experience & identity is the perfect breeding ground for a profound respect that can blossom into love.
It makes me ache to see a black woman closed up; shell-shocked from too many negative experiences with her own, where a man grappling within his own imbalance tried to drag her down. Whether it’s a man feeling entitled to her personal space & time on a train, or an abusive relationship, I know our women go through a lot at our own hand and one of the greatest frustrations as a man of my age is knowing that a woman I see a possible connection with has been corrupted by a brother who didn’t know to value & revere her.
The media image of the black man is one I’m confronted with daily in my line of work. It’s exhaustingly narrow. It’s everywhere, and so engrained in people’s minds that I can tell when they are interacting with who they think I am, instead of interacting with me. It’s ugly. I make an effort to push back against it every day.
The way her hair feels
Plush, light, hugging me softly
Like grandmother’s touch
Smelling of early morning
Spring tides remind me of her
scrunch. tie. tangle. soft. scrunch. soft tie tangle scrunch. up down. scrape scrape scrape. bounce
bounce grow. up down scrunch. tie scrunch. soft fizz pop. blue.
scrape twist brush comb. scrape scrape coconut oil castor oil. twist braid twist turn scrunch tie. up
down right left. Tangle twist scrunch scrape. pat grease pat grease pat coconut oil. smooth down
smooth up left right. squeeze brush stroke comb scrape scrape pat pat wash dry blow blow blow.
Wash dry smooth pat pat blast blow blast blow. castor oil. roll roll roll tie scrape squeeze twist twist
twist. press pat press. ammonium. deep blast. ammonium thioglycolate. scrape brush wide tooth
comb. blow brush blast. potassium hydroxide. lithium hydroxide PH14. press deep. sodium bromate
PH10. pat grease scrape blow blast crystine bonds. smooth smooth stroke squeeze. strip tame strip
tame. stretch deep stretch scrape relax. blue.
wash blow bounce. Scrunch bounce bounce. grow grow grow. wild. wild. wild.
What makes an afro beautiful?
There are at least as many answers to that question as there are Afros in the world. Some people say the Afro is beautiful because of what it represents: rejecting western standards of beauty and embracing one’s heritage. Some say the Afro is beautiful because of what it looks like; the way each strand of hair curls and coils, interlacing with other strands as if performing an intimate dance.
To those answers I would like to add my own: no two Afros are the same. Every Afro has its own curl pattern and is styled differently by the person rocking it. Every person is beautiful in a unique way and the Afro is simply a reflection of that beauty.
This is heavy
Was thinking about my locs the other day.
Whenever I become overwhelmed, I grab a loc, I look at it, and think on where it began, it was a stage that I was uncomfortable in.
That stage messed with my self-esteem, didn’t realized how deeply rooted and connected those two things are. I
had to push through and let it take it’s course (with proper maintenance and work of course) and do what does naturally?
It does exactly what it does, naturally, it develops into something beautiful. That’s our hair. That’s our culture. That’s our beings.