30 DAYS WITHOUT A COMB

Except from 30 Days Without a Comb. March 9, 2010.

 

Cut, curl, bend, shape, twist, braid, knot. They say a person's hair is their "crowning glory" and there doesn't seem to be a group of black folks on the globe who haven't taken this saying to heart. This score explores this diaspora wide impulse to sculpt and shape black hair by detaching the impulse from one's head.

Each day, for 30 days, Cousins channeled this impulse off of her head via two actions. First, she detached it from her head by styling the hair on her head as minimally as possible, without a comb. Then she vented it by making small sculptures out of hair that had been separated from her body.

Cousins' work explores the evolution of black Americans born in the 1970’s, like herself, who grew up wearing African sculptural impulse driven hairstyles that are commonly referred to as "natural hair," and are now moving closer to the dictionary definition of "natural" by casting off the impulse to sculpt or control their hair. This progression from "sculpted natural" to literal natural is in subtle contrast to the latest wave of black American women who are moving away from straightening their hair by replacing it with highly regimented sculpted kinky styles. By highlighting the subtle, yet historically relevant difference, Cousins explores how black America's aesthetic rebellion against a Eurocentric definition of beauty is now being followed by what is arguably a rebellion against an African definition of beauty as part of an evolving definition of what constitutes self love and personal freedom.

Fun fact: Did you know the 1960's pop cultural fascination with afros gave rise to several companies which marketed "hot picks," like the one below, to help black Americans achieve perfectly shaped afros by lengthening their hair?