by Sharlyn Pierre
Why are we so choosy about our hair? The answer may seem obvious, but some thought is required. It’s a major reflection and expression of who we are as women. In the documentary In Our Heads About Our Hair, director Hemamset Angaza and producers Maitefa Angaza, Maat Kesa Tab, and Anu Prestonia, owner of Khamit Kinks hair saloncandidly discuss with men and women that all hair is created equal; we just have to find the balance.
TM: Where did your inspiration for this film come from?
HA: Well, Anu Prestonia, she’s one of the co-producers for the film, she wanted to do a short project concerning black women and hair, and she didn’t really know if she wanted to do a film. I just graduated college and I was looking for some projects to take on, so she reached out to me and asked if I could help her. I said ìsure!î and we started working and we brought on our other 2 co-producers. It snowballed over time from what we thought was going to be a 10 minute project laughs, to a 20 minute project, it ended up being 75 minutes.
TM: What was one interesting thing you learned while making this film that you didn’t know before?
HA: Hmm, okay, I guess I was always halfway conscious about the issue between natural versus processed or unnatural hair. I mean, I knew the difference but I really didn’t pay much attention to it-most guys don’t which is something that we found out during this process. I’m not sure that I had a preference one-way or the other. I grew up around a lot of people who chose to wear their hair naturally, but I just looked at it is that’s what they just chose to do. So during this film, it really opened my eyes to how much of an issue it is in the first place and how many people feel like they can’t express themselves naturally, or feel like they need to express themselves with straightened hair, or extensions, or whatever to kinda conform or maybe to succeed better in the work place. I honestly just didn’t know it was an issue as a male.
TM: What do you hope both men and women take away from this film?
Maitefa Angaza, MA: Well, for men, I hope they take away-and we’ve gotten feedback from a lot men who’ve seen the film thus far- who have said that they had no idea how deep this issue runs for women and similar to what my son said they’ve observed from the outside and realized that it’s an issue for black women more so than it is for other women but they weren’t really familiar as to the wheres and the whys of that situation. I hope that men take away that hair is not a superficial issue for black women, it’s more than being a part of their identity, it’s part of their racial identity, their psyche, and how they see themselves, and how they become whole in terms of their self image so, you know, tread lightly. And I think for women, one of the significant things that have surprised women is although our film is about women, we do interview some men, we have a healthy number of men in there speaking on the subject and women seem to be surprised by the fact that so many of the men in our film say that they prefer women with natural hair and they never really understood what the big deal is like ìwhy can’t you just wear your hair the way it is? We think it’s lovely. We think it’s wonderful. Now some of that is a little bit Pollyanna because we know some of the images that have been put forth in the media, men have also contributed to women feeling like that had to have the bone straight long hair because that was the epitome of beauty. We found that when you talk to the average brotha on the street, they won’t say ìI hate that bone, straight hairî but they appreciate natural hair as well and a lot of women would be surprised to see how many brothas feel that way.
HA: And I just wanted to add that for men, if we’ve ever had the situation where our women might have gotten a different hairstyle, and we didn’t really notice, we might want to take another look at that because she might have been sitting in that chair for 12 hours, getting that done.
TM: Very true! Waiting on that compliment!
HA: I mean, that changed for me and I hope that other men appreciate the issue more. I know that has happened though because we’ve screened once or twice before and some of my friends, and actually one of my white friends said that he didn’t even know the difference between straightened and natural hair on a black woman at all. He didn’t know that there was issues whatsoever towards it. He just kind of accepted it for what it was and now he can’t stop thinking about black women and their hair every time he rides the train. We just kind of need to be open to the conversation. I mean it’s just something that most of us don’t really have to think about.
TM: Speaking of which, as a man, why do you think it’s important to have this dialogue about hair?
HA: Well, I think that certainly the reasons why women do the things they do with their hair are beyond men in a lot of ways, but I do that some of it has to do with what they think men like or what men have established as what they desire throughout society. So I think because of that it’s important that we at least recognize what they’re doing. They could be doing all of this for you and you don’t even know and she never even mentions it to you. She never expresses to you that she thought you liked it this way ‘cause she might find out that you actually like it natural, you might actually like her with an afro. We had one woman in the film who wears her hair straight and she has a white boyfriend and he tells us that he likes all kinds of natural styles. He likes it in braids, afros, etc. and she couldn’t believe it, she just didn’t know that he felt that way and she wouldn’t because it isn’t something she would necessarily ask. BUT people do have opinions.
TM: Where can people watch In Our Heads About Our Hair in its entirety?
HA: We have a few more screenings coming up. There’s on May 5th at the Spike Lee Theater at LIU Brooklyn. There’s also a screening in July in San Francisco at the International Black Women’s Film Festival. There will be quite a few places where people can see it in theaters. For more information, just check out our Facebook page.