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U.S. Embassy partners Red Rose Salon to showcase Good Hair

March 25, 2011 | Harare
A unidentified hair stylist attends discussion on Good Hair in Harare. (Photo: PAS, Harare)

A local hair stylist discusses "Good Hair" in Harare

The United States Embassy partnered with Red Rose Hair Salon for a screening of the documentary, Good Hair, by Chris Rock on Thursday.  The audience of nearly 85 hairdressers and beauty therapists in Harare discussed the film afterwards.

Speaking before the screening, Sharon Hudson Dean, Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy, said the film screening was part of the Embassy’s outreach program to celebrate Women’s History Month.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity to use this documentary to reach out to a special group of women -- hairstylists. All women go to the hair salon and spend some time there -- it’s a fun part of our lives. Today, we want to share something related but different with you,” said Hudson-Dean, who also presented the salon with copies of the novel, “The Hairdresser of Harare,” by Tendai Guchu.

The documentary “Good Hair,” by Chris Rock was released in 2009. It explores the $9 billion black hair industry, looking at the extreme lengths that black women are willing to go through in order to look a certain way. A common ideology in the African American culture is that the straighter the hair, the prettier the woman. On the contrary, a woman wearing her hair naturally (with no chemical processing) is viewed as unkempt or unprofessional.

“It made me think. I thought it was funny, pathetic and real,” said Dawn Anderson, an African- American diplomat who co-facilitated a discussion with Heather Nota for the hair stylists.  

“Funny because Chris Rock is a funny guy, he has a way of telling a story that is in many ways unheralded.  Pathetic because women have bought into conventional notions of what is right and what is beautiful even though the conventions are Eurocentric.  Definitely real because it is what it is and we all want the same thing, which is to look our best,” said Anderson.

Most hair stylists felt the pressures brought in by media and celebrities gave women little choice but to comply. Despite learning about the processing of braids, a hair stylist insisted she would not tell anyone how the product was manufactured.

“What determines my hair style is what is easiest for me to handle,” said Nota. She commented on the film: “I knew where Indian hair came from, but I am not really worried about whose head it came because at the end of the day you want  to look good locks, your own hair, braids, weaves, straight hair, braids or whatever, if you feel beautiful do it,” said Nota, a fashion designer.

“I’m sure they are now very much aware of some of the products they use,” said Barbara Chikosi, director of Red Rose Hair and Beauty Salon, venue of the film. ZimPAS© 2011