Fine Art

Women’s History Month, Yeelen will be extending its current exhibit

Since its inception, Yeelen—which means “brightness” in Bambara, the lingua franca in Mali—has been illuminating art that reflects a dynamic understanding of blackness and human experience.

It’s not common among straight-haired little girls to be told that their hair is “bad” for being too “difficult.” Grown women all have their struggles, but seldom are those with straight hair told that their hairstyle, albeit clean and groomed, is too “unprofessional” for the workplace.

Yet, every black woman has heard some variation of the aforementioned about her kinky-curly hair, often since childhood. Hair—and other parts of a black woman’s body, but in particular the thread-like strands that grow from her head—somehow became a way to tame, control, and monetize the black woman.

Good hair vs. bad hair, the skin tone spectrum, body shape/size, and other things that black women are constantly told in order to determine their beauty, are all directly tied to their ideas of self-worth.

One Garifuna (or Afro-Latina) woman, Sulma Arzu-Brown, realized she could either be angry at the situation, or become part of the solution. In an attempt to re-direct the narrative and create a healthier outlook for her young daughters, she wrote a book called “Bad Hair Does Not Exist.”

Particularly in the United States, black women—all women of color—are so often expected to conform to “white” standards, that on the rare occasion they’re outspoken about their pride in their heritage, the collective white world loses its mind, see here.

If it’s surprising to you that women, especially those whose skin is of a darker persuasion, appear to be getting together to empower themselves, then it’s clear: You haven’t been paying attention

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