When my Cameroonian friend Tatiana asked me: why don't you take some pictures of the many amazing African hairstyles? I thought, yes that would be cool, but I'd really want to know the stories behind the given hairstyles - like what's the story behind the hairdo? How does it make you feel?
Now, Tatiana is a pharmacist in Yaounde. She's hearing all kind of stories all day long. And many of those are about hair. African hair. About the struggles, the traumas. One of her clients said: we are all hiding our problems behind wigs and extensions.
Fast forward we had a group of nine women from 5 different African countries, we met weekly for six weeks. We created a space where everyone felt comfortable sharing their own stories of empowerment, self discovery, experiences and...hair! With the notion of 'knowledge is power' Tatiana shared her knowledge about the ingredients to watch out for in shampoos and other hair care products. Ingredients which in Africa are not regulated and are permanently damaging. We explored the movement of going NAPPY (naturally happy) and what it meant within the society in Cameroon.
The BELIEVE. t-shirt was launched to encourage people to BELIEVE. in their capabilities. To BELIEVE. in their intuition and gut feeling. To BELIEVE. that we create our own realities. To BELIEVE. in our unique power that only WE have. To BELIEVE. and celebrate our uniqueness and our very own beauty.
“For me, my natural hair reflects my roots. My hair is the unique way to show off where I am coming from in addition to my skin color. Also, my hair has become a kind of personal brand as amongst my friends I’m the only one wearing them natural. " ~ Emilie/Cameroon
“My hair has always been natural because I always liked to create my hairstyle with my natural hair texture. My philosophy is that if I can’t create with what I have, I can’t be fully empowered."
~ Flore Hunter/Cameroon
“My hair is me, who I am, it portrays my personality. The simplicity of my hairdo speaks volumes of my person. It also relays my message of being bold and courageous to be “YOU” at all times. I would say there is an indirect link between my journey and my hair. There is a huge intersection between the two components.
My hair is an informative tool, silent yet powerful. Voiceless but speaks volumes. It tells stories of the past, present and perhaps the future. My hair is connected to my voice of reasoning.”
“My hair is my pride and it interprets my feelings and my mood. The link between my journey of self discovery and my hair is that it tells a story of change in life where I am as an individual and where I intend going in the future. It’s all about discovering my strength and the battles I have won to date."
~ Ole/South Africa
“My hair is my crown! My hair is an expression tool for my creativity. My hair enables me to be a new person every time I do a new hairstyle. It's like a rejuvenating process, shading out the old skin and embracing the new. Doing a hairstyle with my afro crown requires time! Its a special appointment with myself.