Emma Dabiri’s Hair Power: Me and My Afro: this documentary untangles the history and politics of Afro hair

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Hanna Ibraheem
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Emma Dabiri’s documentary, Hair Power: Me and My Afro, shares men and women’s stories about their journeys to celebrating their natural hair – busting taboos and shedding light on how your hair texture can shape your life experiences along the way.

Hair. To some, it might be something you don’t give much thought to outside the confines of your shower but within the Black community, every strand is a symbol of power, rich culture and beauty.

This is what is explored in writer and author Emma Dabiri’s powerful documentary, Hair Power: Me and My Afro. Airing tonight on Channel 4, Dabiri, who wrote bestselling book Don’t Touch My Hair, talks to men and women about their unique and personal hair stories, looking at how their Afro-textured hair has shaped their identities and experiences of being Black in modern Britain.

Writer and author Emma Dabiri leads the discussion on how Afro-textured hair shapes Black experience in Britain.

Across its 50-minute run time, Dabiri leads the interviewees through discussions related to childhood and the moment they experienced their Afro hair intersecting with Eurocentric views.

They examine generations of using relaxers (including one woman’s story on how it left her scalp in scabs), the joys and fun behind the doors of a Black salon (“Once you put your foot over the doorway, you know you could be there for an hour, you could be there for five hours,” comments one woman in the documentary) and the trauma of repeatedly seeing Floyd’s death and the impact it had on the Black community this year.

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One particularly poignant moment comes when activist Jade Holman-Travis discusses a major epiphany. Following the Black Lives Matters movement protests sparked by the death of Floyd, Holman-Travis realised she didn’t leave her house without straightening her hair because of white supremacy.

“With that, you realise that you never loved your hair which then makes you realise: did you really love yourself?” she explains.

The interviewees also discuss the ways in which systemic racism leads to deplorable encounters with white people who think it’s acceptable to touch a person’s Afro hair, schoolchildren receiving detentions for “unacceptable” hairstyles and the multi-layered issues with cultural appropriation.

Ruby Williams discusses the moment she was sent from school because of her Afro hair.

By the end of the documentary, it’s clear that there’s so much to unpick around the subject of Afro hair.”Our hair can be a place of refuge, a sanctuary, a side of trauma or indeed, a source of pride,” says Dabiri in the documentary.

These insightful interviews do an incredible job at shining a light on the journey to embracing natural hair and how it can become a source of empowerment.

It’s a love letter to the beauty of Afro hair and a candid discussion on the struggles of overcoming systemic racism and unconscious bias. We can only hope for more documentaries as brilliant as this one.

Hair Power: Me and My Afro with Emma Dabiri is available to stream on All4 now.

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Images: Channel 4