My blackness and my hair texture was a very defining feature of that experience, and my hair was treated very much like it was an affliction. Certainly something to be ashamed of.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-09-09 00:48Z by Steven

Your book covers academic arguments surrounding these things and the culture surrounding these topics, but it was born from a very personal place. What was it like for you growing up in a larger white society as a person of colour?

The term person of colour is quite generic; I feel like if I’d been a person of colour who had straight hair I would have had a very different experience than somebody who was racialised as black and had extremely Afro-textured hair. My blackness and my hair texture was a very defining feature of that experience, and my hair was treated very much like it was an affliction. Certainly something to be ashamed of. I didn’t see anybody with this type of hair, so there was very much a sense of “why have I been sabotaged in this way?”

Growing up in Dublin, the expertise and the products that were required to maintain my hair were sorely absent. My Mum would bring me to the UK occasionally and I remember when I was 12 she brought me to Tottenham, and I got a Jheri curl. When I was 17 I got my hair properly relaxed in a salon and had all this weave attached for like the first time — honey blond tracks, I was overjoyed. It felt like salvation.

Mariko Finch, “Emma Dabiri on the Politics of Black Hair,” Sotheby‘s: African Modern & Contemporary Art, September 3, 2019. https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/emma-dabiri-on-the-politics-of-black-hair.

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Emma Dabiri on the Politics of Black Hair

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2019-09-09 00:13Z by Steven

Emma Dabiri on the Politics of Black Hair

Sotheby’s
African Modern & Contemporary Art
2019-09-03

Mariko Finch, Deputy Editor, Deputy Director
London, United Kingdom

Emma Dabiri wearing Nigerian Yoruba suku braids

Emma Dabiri is a broadcaster, author and academic who recently published Don’t Touch My Hair — a book that charts the shifting cultural status of black hair from pre-colonial Africa through to Western pop culture and beyond. Ahead of the Modern & Contemporary African Art sale in London on 15 October, in which a number of works depicting traditional African hair are offered, we sat down with her to discuss the history of hairstyles.

Mariko Finch: When did you decide that you wanted to turn your research into a book?

Emma Dabiri: In around 2016. The conversation about black hair had been happening for a while at that stage but I was finding it often quite repetitive. There is so much more to engage with through hair, so I wanted to do that research. There is so much more to engage with through hair; social history, philosophy, metaphysics, mathematical expression, coding, maps…

This topic has recently made it to the mainstream media; through Beyoncé and Solange Knowles, Kim Kardashian and the issue of cultural appropriation. It is very timely to have that debate anchored in something historical.

I felt somewhat exasperated by the way people’s frustrations around cultural appropriation by celebrities were being disregarded and dismissed as just something very superficial; as if those weren’t valid or legitimate concerns. I wanted to provide the historical context for why this anger exists. Let me show that it’s not just vacuous, or petty policing of culture. There are like very strong historical antecedents as to why these emotions run so high…

Read the entire interview here.

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Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri review – a voyage to empowerment

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2019-05-03 13:35Z by Steven

Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri review – a voyage to empowerment

The Guardian
2019-05-02

Colin Grant


Emma Dabiri records the external and internal pathologising of black hair as a chronic condition. Photograph: Silvana Trevale/The Guardian

Combs, braids and Bob Marley’s bad-hair days are explored in this richly researched cultural history

When Rita Anderson’s teenage boyfriend Bob was growing up in Jamaica’s Trenchtown ghetto, the fair-skinned future Rasta reggae star was so concerned to demonstrate his black heredity that he would get Rita to rub black shoe polish into his hair – so that, she says, it appeared “blacker, coarser and more African”. But after reading Emma Dabiri’s richly researched book, you wonder which model of African hair Bob Marley had in mind. For Dabiri shows that Africans have always paid close attention to the grooming and careful styling of hair, and in Yoruba the phrase for “dreadlocks” is irun were, which translates as “insane person’s hair-do”.

Like Marley, Dabiri also has black and white parents, and has wrestled with her identity. As a child in Ireland, people volunteered opinions about her hair that made her feel ashamed and “like an abomination”. But her personal story merely serves in the book as a jumping off point for an exploration of many subjects, among them colourism and self-worth.

Dabiri, who is a teaching fellow at SOAS, argues that the “desire to conform” to a European “aesthetic which values light skin and straight hair is the result of a propaganda campaign that has lasted more than 500 years”. European powers saw African culture as an impediment to productivity. “Idle husbands”, fumed one colonial administrator, wasted hours setting their wives the task of “braiding and fettishing out their woolly hair”…

Read the entire review here.

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Don’t Touch My Hair

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Books, Media Archive, Monographs on 2019-05-03 13:30Z by Steven

Don’t Touch My Hair

Allen Lane (an imprint of Penguin)
2019-02-05
240 pages
Hardback ISBN: 9780241308349
Ebook ISBN: 9780141986296

Emma Dabiri, Teaching Fellow SOAS; Visual Sociology Ph.D. Researcher, Goldsmiths

Despite our more liberal world views, black hair continues to be erased, appropriated and stigmatised to the point of taboo. Why is that?

Recent years have seen the conversation around black hair reach tipping point, yet detractors still proclaim ‘it’s only hair!’ when it never is. This book seeks to re-establish the cultural significance of African hairstyles, using them as a blueprint for decolonisation. Over a series of wry, informed essays, the author takes us from pre-colonial Africa, through the Harlem Renaissance, Black Power and into today’s Natural Hair Movement, the Cultural Appropriation Wars and beyond. We look at the trajectory from hair capitalists like Madam CJ Walker in the early 1900s to the rise of Shea Moisture today, touching on everything from women’s solidarity and friendship, to forgotten African scholars, to the dubious provenance of Kim Kardashian’s braids.

The scope of black hairstyling ranges from pop culture to cosmology, from prehistoric times to the (afro)futuristic. Uncovering sophisticated indigenous mathematical systems – the bedrock of modern computing – in black hair styles, alongside styles that served as secret intelligence networks leading enslaved Africans to freedom, Don’t Touch My Hair proves that far from being only hair, black hairstyling culture can be understood as an allegory for black oppression and, ultimately, liberation.

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Belgium has apologised for its abuse of mixed race children – it’s time for Ireland to do the same

Posted in Articles, Europe, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Work on 2019-04-18 00:03Z by Steven

Belgium has apologised for its abuse of mixed race children – it’s time for Ireland to do the same

gal-dem
2019-04-11

Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff


Image via Métis Association of Belgium / Facebook

The apology from Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, for the segregation, kidnapping and trafficking of as many as 20,000 mixed-race children in the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda, is long overdue. Forcibly taken from Africa to Belgium between 1959 and 1962, métis children born in the 1940s and 50s were left stateless. If you’re not aware of the atrocities of colonialism (Belgium was responsible for the deaths of between 10 to 15 million Africans), this type of identity-destroying abuse might feel hard to comprehend – especially situated in such recent history. But in the UK, we have our own unresolved issues with the treatment of dual heritage children slightly closer to home: in Ireland.

The correlations between the cases are striking. In Belgian colonies, many métis were brought up in Catholic institutions or orphanages, away from family and sometimes removed from where they were born. “These children posed a problem. To minimise the problem they kidnapped these children starting at the age of two… The Belgian government and the missionaries believed that these children would be subjected to major problems,” Francois Milliex, the director of the Métis Association of Belgium, told RFI.

Similarly, in Ireland, it has been documented that mixed-race children were left to rot in mother and baby homes and industrial schools in the 1940s to 60s. The Catholic Church was involved – nuns and priests would often run the homes and schools. “To be Irish was to be Roman Catholic. To be Roman Catholic was to be Irish,” says Rosemary Adaser, who co-founded the Mixed Race Irish campaign and support group for victims of the homes and schools. “It wasn’t uncommon for the Roman Catholic Church to send over its priests to the Irish community in London and give them lessons in morality.”…

Read the entire article here.

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None of this is about flattery, it’s about power, desire and ownership. A sinister reminder that people who once owned our bodies, still can, and of the troubled history and deep seated taboos that continue to define race relations between black and white in the 21st century.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-11-24 02:11Z by Steven

By the 20th century these stories had morphed into stereotypes about “mixed-race” black women, which migrated into popular culture, where we now had the privilege of being represented as “tragic mulattos”; according to white supremacist discourse, the mulatto did not have the “right to live” the US senator Charles Carroll said in 1900. We were an abomination who disrupted the racial order, and as a result of our pathology were emotionally unstable, yet we were still perceived as seductresses. And that’s why it’s no coincidence that when these online imposters post as their light-skin black alter egos they post thirst-traps with sultry eyes and pouty mouths, yet in photographs as their white selves, they remain smilingly wholesome girls next door. They are operating in familiar terrain, reinforcing topes that emerged out of slavery and which have been developed and refined via mass media throughout the 20th and 21st century. None of this is about flattery, it’s about power, desire and ownership. A sinister reminder that people who once owned our bodies, still can, and of the troubled history and deep seated taboos that continue to define race relations between black and white in the 21st century.

Emma Dabiri, “white girls reinventing themselves as black women on instagram has to stop,” i-D, November 20, 2018. https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/nepzyg/white-girls-instagram-blackface-blackfishing.

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white girls reinventing themselves as black women on instagram has to stop i-D

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, Women on 2018-11-21 22:28Z by Steven

white girls reinventing themselves as black women on instagram has to stop

i-D
Vice
2018-11-20

Emma Dabiri


Instagram influencer Emma Halberg has been accused of altering her looks to appear black. She denies the accusations. Images via social media.

As a recent Twitter storm brought attention to social media blackface, Emma Dabiri looks at the cultural history of this racist practice and its links to black women being perceived as sexually available.

Last week a Twitter thread went viral for calling out white girls on Instagram and YouTube, some of them with huge followings, who are seemingly using various methods to transform their faces and bodies so they look “mixed-race” – though some have denied that’s what they’re doing, blaming their change on a propensity to deeply tan. Various media outlets are referring to this as “blackfishing”, but there is another name for it, which more clearly links this practice to its racist past. While “ni**erfishing” sounds like a sport from the good ole days when AMERICA WAS GREAT, when a picnic wasn’t a picnic without a black body swinging in the southern breeze, it is in fact a phenomenon all our own, from the year of our good lord 2018. N**erfishing is this cute lil trick whereby white girls literally reinvent themselves online, on Instagram and Youtube, as “mixed-race” or light-skinned black women. From our complexion to our lips and other facial features, to textured hair and the use of protective styles, weaves and braids — there is little to separate these white women visually from black women…

Read the entire article here.

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Emma Dabiri: The Diaspora Diva on trolls, modelling and growing up black in Dublin

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-08-14 00:20Z by Steven

Emma Dabiri: The Diaspora Diva on trolls, modelling and growing up black in Dublin

Sunday Independent
2018-08-14

Donal Lynch

Emma Dabiri, author, TV presenter, model is very much at home in London but she's an Irish girl at heart. Photo: Jonathan Goldberg
Emma Dabiri, author, TV presenter, model is very much at home in London but she’s an Irish girl at heart. Photo: Jonathan Goldberg

With her BBC series about to air, academic and broadcaster Emma Dabiri spoke to Donal Lynch

It’s a sweltering afternoon and on a quiet London side street, outside an impossibly chic bakery (it’s where Meghan and Harry had their wedding cake made), academic, author and former-model Emma Dabiri is taking a well-earned break from working on the final manuscript for her forthcoming book: Don’t Touch My Hair.

Before we meet I half considered this a slightly redundant admonition for polite society – why would anyone, bar someone with latent Harvey Weinstein tendencies, touch a woman’s hair unbidden? – but, in person, you can see where the temptation might arise. In this most genteel of settings, Emma’s hair is an event, a happening, a lustrously-beautiful nimbus that frames her fine features. Curiosity and generations of cultural racism seem to spur the urge to pet it, stroke it. I heroically resist, but others are not so strong.

“A few weeks ago a woman reached out to touch my hair on the tube and as she put out her hand she said ‘wait… you don’t like that, do you?’ It was as though some dim memory of editorials she’d read somewhere, came bursting through; she remembered and held herself back a bit.”

Growing up in Dublin, it happened all the time. It was constant. Often kids would just say “oh my God, look at her hair, it’s mad” and come right over and have a feel and a chat”, she recalls. “It felt strange and objectifying. I found it strange because I wouldn’t even touch someone’s dog without asking them. I never questioned all of the treatments (that are used to ‘relax’ black hair) but they weren’t always available to me because it’s difficult to get those products in Ireland. My mum would work in Liverpool or Manchester, and there you could get a curly perm, which is sort of like defined curls, rather than afro hair…

…As for whether she feels ‘more’ Irish or Nigerian, “people often ask me that. To me, it’s not a relevant question. First of all, I was born and raised in Ireland, but really I don’t feel I have to choose. I identify as both black and Irish, it may be unusual – although happily increasingly less so – but the two are not mutually exclusive!…

Read the entire article here.

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Amongst all of the women who could be identified as black, there exists such a huge diversity of features and appearances that it is hard to talk about what a “black woman” looks like in any meaningful way, yet you reduce us to a monolith?

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-04-26 02:40Z by Steven

What is it about black girls that you find so attractive? We come in all different shades and sizes. Amongst all of the women who could be identified as black, there exists such a huge diversity of features and appearances that it is hard to talk about what a “black woman” looks like in any meaningful way, yet you reduce us to a monolith?

Emma Dabiri, “Emma: On What It Means to Be “Attracted to Black Girls”,” Dublin InQuirer, April 24, 2018. https://www.dublininquirer.com/2018/04/24/emma-on-what-it-means-to-be-attracted-to-black-girls.

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Emma: On What It Means to Be “Attracted to Black Girls”

Posted in Articles, Europe, Media Archive, Social Work on 2018-04-25 22:22Z by Steven

Emma: On What It Means to Be “Attracted to Black Girls”

Ask Emma: Navigating race and identity in Ireland
Dublin InQuirer
Dublin, Ireland
2018-04-24

Emma Dabiri


Image by Rob Mirolo

In her regular column, Emma Dabiri fields your questions on race and identity in contemporary Ireland. Got something you’ve been pondering? You can send her your questions through this form.

Hi Emma,

I’m a white male Dubliner who is very attracted to black girls. I’ve never been with a black girl, and don’t actually know any black women at all to be honest, but whenever I see a pretty black girl on the street or in the office, I melt.

I’m trying not to sound too weird. I know it’s not good to exoticize. I do watch lots of black porn. I have had no chill on the few opportunities I’ve had to speak to black girls. I feel like flirting is hard enough, but with race, identity, etc. it all becomes overwhelming.

What should I do?

We deliberated quite a lot as to whether or not this was a serious question or the work of a troll. However, as a black woman who grew up on the receiving end of attitudes such as yours, I am pretty convinced of its veracity.

The ideas about what blackness is that inform your “preferences” are centuries old, and sadly are not going away anytime soon. What I write should help you, although I have to admit that in this instance helping you is not my main priority.

Rather, I want to take this opportunity to expose the mechanics behind this way of thinking, and the ways in which these attitudes are damaging and dehumanizing to black people.

What is it about black girls that you find so attractive? We come in all different shades and sizes. Amongst all of the women who could be identified as black, there exists such a huge diversity of features and appearances that it is hard to talk about what a “black woman” looks like in any meaningful way, yet you reduce us to a monolith?…

Read the entire article here.

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