Straightened. Stigmatised. ‘Tamed’. Celebrated. Erased. Managed. Appropriated. Forever misunderstood. Black hair is never ‘just hair’.
The scope of black hairstyling ranges from pop culture to cosmology, from prehistoric times to the (afro)futuristic. Uncovering sophisticated indigenous mathematical systems in black hairstyles, 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.
Emma Dabiri is an Irish-Nigerian academic, writer and broadcaster. She is a teaching fellow in the Africa department at School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Her first book Don’t Touch My Hair is published by Penguin. Her hair has been disappointing people since birth.