Copenhagen Hair

becoming my true self, one day at a time…

A New Beginning December 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Yema Ferreira @ 12:42 am

It’s Christmas again and a new year looms close in the horizon. Another year gone by, filled with change and continuity, joy and sadness, tears and laughter, successes and challenges. Another year of life in all its intensity.

 

For every ending there is a new beginning. As an addict of new beginnings I have had to work with myself to stay with this ending, to finish what needs to be finished in the present moment of this closing year, before rushing ahead to the exciting new. But I cannot completely help looking ahead, or back, for that matter, in a sort of evaluation of what 2013 has been for me and what I want to place my attention on in 2014. This year has been an exciting and challenging one for me. Moving to a new country and going back to school as a mother of two small children, while very rewarding has not come without bumps or hurtles. I am dancing around them still, trusting that practice will make perfect. No, not perfect. Good enough.

 

This year I chose surrender as my word-of-the-year. A practice I started a few tears ago after accepting that new year resolutions were doing nothing for me. I felt I was working too hard at controlling the outcomes of, as well as the way to, the things I wanted in my life and that that had become an obstacle, not only to those targets, but especially to my enjoyment of the journey. Surrender was my prayer to let go, my prayer for me to get out of my own way. How have I fared? Have I learned anything about surrender? I don’t know yet as I am still in the midst of it. What I can say is that it has been a struggle. How do you let go while still taking responsibility? How do you navigate without a plan, but with a plan? I trust that the answers to those questions will come to me in due time. For now I am happy I have the word for the new year, which I am very excited about. But I will share it only next year as I am committed to living in the moment, which is still 2013.

 

This is my last post of the year. I thank you for your continued support despite my absences and hope to see you back next year to continue the conversation. I leave you with very warm wishes for a splendid Christmas and the happiest of New Years.

 
 

Origins of the Afro Comb Exhibition November 9, 2013

Filed under: Hair — Yema Ferreira @ 12:44 am
Tags: , , ,

Last weekend I Managed to catch the exhibition Origins of the Afro comb at the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge on its last day. I had found out about it a couple of weeks back but had been unable to go due to childcare issues. My husband was traveling, I was alone with the kids and so could not go. Thankfully he came back in time and I was able to go on the last day of the exhibition. I am glad I made time for it, although I had lots of reading to do for school.

I must say that, as I entered the first exhibition gallery and found myself in ancient Egypt, I prepared for disappointment, not because I have anything against Egypt, but because I feared it would stop there as it often happens. But I was reassured in the next room, as coverage of the continent extended even beyond West Africa, another usual suspect,  including countries like DRC, Zambia and Tanzania. Even Angola and Mozambique, which rarely make it, were covered. That was a treat. I guess it is a human fault to want to see ourselves reflected in the world we live in. As an Angolan, who seldom finds herself represented in anything, I was quite satisfied. The Diaspora and Caribbean were also represented, particularly in the more modern parts of the exhibition.

This was, as the Brits say, a lovely exhibition. I experienced it from the point of view of someone telling their own story as opposed to the more familiar feeling I get, in anything about africa, of a people’s story being told by others. The amount and variety of combs exhibited in terms of size, shape, material used and artistic craftsmanship was quite impressive. There were other items as well, from photos to videos, headdresses and other styling tools.

I loved seeing the ancient side by side with the old and the new. The  almost toothless carbon dated Afro comb next to the plastic, made in china black power fist one. I love that it is up with the times including some pictures and videos clearly pertaining to the era of the natural hair movement amid some older ones. I also appreciated that the organizers chose to exhibit some old anthropological pictures, which are in our times considered inappropriate because of how they depict African people, being careful to explain why they chose to do so. Where items on display were pillaged, it was also indicated (though the wording was perhaps more diplomatic than mine).

My favorite items were the two sets of wooden barber shop signs. They evoked for me in a very authentic way, modern African street culture. I was transported to the hot and dusty streets of Luanda with its hustlers, chaotic traffic and general buzz. It was warming to see old models of the Afro comb I had forgotten about and to remember particular scenes of getting my hair done, some more pleasant than others. When I came to the hot comb and pressing iron section, I got the chills. I didn’t know I was that terrified of those instruments. But they really did make my insides recoil in horror. They looked to me like instruments of torture. A bit of an exaggeration, I know, but that’s how I felt looking at them.

I also learned something new. I did not know about the design, patenting and manufacturing of combs for African hair which developed in parallel with the civil rights and black power movements. It made me think of the current developments in the natural hair product industry, which reminded me of the power that we all have as people to influence markets that deliver what we want and need, rather than buying whatever is thrown at us. If only we used that power more, the world would be a different place.

Last but not least, seeing a picture of Nina Simone with her afro towards the end made me want to grow my hair again. I think it is time.

 

The way to London November 7, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration — Yema Ferreira @ 12:45 am
Tags: ,

Life is a journey. I am sure you know that, so forgive me for stating the obvious. But I have noticed that, as I go through this seemingly haphazard journey, moving from place to place, from experience to experience, from interaction to interaction; I pick up whatever I need for the next stage, the next adventure. And so it is that I came to London. There are things here intent on thrusting me around the next loop in this upward spiral.

 

There is one thing I have not shared with you. Well, many, but this one is crucial to you knowing me. I have not shared with you my passion for healing. Just as I have always known that I wanted to write, so too have I always known that I wanted to help people heal. Heal from emotional wounds, from the wing clipping and soul crushing that seems to be a necessity to growing up. I didn’t know how that was to be done, nor did I know what I needed to do it. I din’t know any of that but I knew two things with certainty: I was going to write and I was going to heal. And in a way they are one and the same thing because I write to heal myself. And in order to help others heal I must first begin to heal myself. 

 

At some point I figured out that Psychology would be the way for me in this healing business. So I studied Psychology as an undergrad and enjoyed it. But there was something missing. I went looking for ways of touching souls and found laboratory rats preoccupied with food pellets. There was intellectual value in that but my soul was left untouched. So before embarking on a graduate student career that might lead me astray, I decided to go into the real world after graduating, to find out what was missing. It took me some time, much soul searching and moving through 3 continents, but eventually I did find it.

 

I decided to train as a Psychotherapist and began the process while still in Denmark. The year I trained there was exhilarating. I knew I had come home, I had found the thing I’d been looking for all my life. A space to heal and grow and be myself in a way I had never felt permitted to. Then, quite by chance, I came across information about a program here in London that seemed just perfect for me. Even more perfect than the one I was already on. Since I don’t believe in chance I followed the lead and here I am, putting one foot in front of the other with a fairly clear sense of my destination, but no clue about the itinerary.  

 
 

Back From The Dead October 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Yema Ferreira @ 12:07 am

As you may have noticed (or not) I have been away for a looooooong time. I have missed being here with you, but it was important that I stay away for a while. Ok, maybe half the time. The other half, I’ll admit, was pure procrastination and indulging in busy-lazy thinking. I have no time, I have no energy, if only this, if only that, and so on and so forth. Before I knew it I was so far gone that I couldn’t find my way back.

 

During this time, many things have happened, many things have changed and some lessons have been learned. As I resume blogging again, it is my intention to share with you some of those lessons and to live my life in the truest way I know how each moment. Blogging helps me do that and that is why I am back. It’s been too hard to do it without the blogging.

 

The biggest change that’s happened is that I have moved on from Copenhagen and am now living in London. It happened in February. I will share what sparked the move in a future post. But the last eight months have been very much about settling into my new life with my family in our new home. Now we are all used to our new environment and, though I cannot say that the transition is over, life has taken on a comfortable rhythm. We love London for all its diversity and opportunities, though we do miss many things about Copenhagen.

 

Naturally, being in London is good news for my hair. I can’t say that I have taken advantage of that yet, though. And that is all I am going to say about that for now.

 

As I prepared to leave Copenhagen I wondered about the relevance of continuing to write this blog. Would it make sense to write a blog called Copenhagen Hair while sitting in London? Would it be honest? I had, as I like to do, a long internal debate with myself about it and decided in the end that it would be both relevant and honest. In fact, it is important, not only to continue blogging but to keep the name, in honor of the place that gave me back to myself. Copenhagen wasn’t easy. It was a place where I came up against many closed doors and straight jackets attempting to fit me in. It was restrictive but that restriction was what created the space for me to look at myself in a way that I hadn’t done before, with a depth I had not managed until then. It forced me to. There was nothing else left to do. There was only me and an open field of hostility – or possibility – depending on how I chose to look at it. I did eventually choose the latter and it has led me to where I am. To where I am going. I will forever be grateful to the city of Copenhagen for that.

 
 

O Sonho de Weza October 19, 2012

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — Yema Ferreira @ 12:43 pm
Tags: ,


Hoje partilho convosco um miniconto…

 

A Weza adorava desenhar. Desenhava a toda hora e em qualquer sítio. Bastava encontrar algo que escrevesse (fosse lápis, caneta, carvão, pedra, ou o próprio dedo) e uma superfície receptiva (papel, areia, passeio, lama ou uma mesa empoeirada) que se punha a desenhar. Até desenhos no ar ela fazia! Concentrada, deixava os dedos serpentearem o ar a sua frente criando formas invisíveis, enquanto esperava que a mãe pagasse as compras. Quando estivesse a fazer os deveres, nas margens do caderno, entre dois pensamentos rabiscava formas abstractas que não sabia explicar o que eram. Retratavam apenas o que lhe ia por dentro no momento, o que não tinha palavras para explicar, para partilhar. O que, se ela não partilhasse de alguma forma, acabaria por morrer assim desconhecido dentro dela, como se nunca tivesse existido. Por vezes desenhava também rostos. Rostos alegres, rostos tristes, rostos perplexos, rostos maravilhados, rostos vexados, rostos reticentes, rostos surpresos. Uma variedade de expressões para as quais não tinha palavras. No fim, observava toda aquela obra realizada sem pensar, sem sentir, quase; e relutante voltava para os deveres com a sensação de estar mais leve.

 

A mãe dizia sempre:

Weza o quê que estás a fazer? Weza para com isso e vai mas é fazer o que te pedi. Weza, estás a gastar papel. Weza, as canetas custam dinheiro, não gastes a tinta a toa!

 

A professora perguntava:

Weza o quê que queres ser quando fores grande?
Quero ser pintora.
Pintora?! E o quê que vais comer querida?

 

Com o pai era assim:

Pai olha o desenho que eu fiz, não tá bonito?
E sem sequer levantar a cara do jornal para ver, o pai respondia distraidamente “hum hum”.

 

Às vezes dava-lhe vontade de desenhar e ela não tinha como, por estar no banho, por exemplo, ou já na cama com a luz apagada. Um dia, deu-lhe tanta vontade no banho que ela pegou no sabonete e fez uns rabiscos na parede. Quando terminou, olhou a sua obra e sorriu com satisfação. A mãe de Weza ao ver os rabiscos de sabão na sua linda parede, ficou tão zangada que saiu pela casa fora a procura do culpado. Quando a encontrou perguntou-lhe, com os olhos bem grandes e os cabelos no ar, de tanta raiva, se tinha sido ela. De tanto medo ela respondeu que não. Mas a mãe sabia que tinha sido ela porque ela era a única pessoa lá em casa que estava sempre a desenhar em todo sítio. Deu-lhe uma surra de muxarico, primeiro por ter sujado a parede, depois por ter mentido. Para ela aprender. E ela aprendeu. Nunca mais voltou a por lápis ao papel, nem carvão ao chão. Nunca mais os seus dedos voltaram a serpentear o ar.

 

No, You Can’t Touch My Hair! October 16, 2012

Filed under: Copenhagen,Hair — Yema Ferreira @ 11:12 pm
Tags: , ,

Writing yesterday’s post made me think of an old piece I wrote way back in 2010. I wrote it in the middle of the night as an opening to my novel but ended up not using it. It kind of  has the feel of a blog post and, in it, I express very different feelings than in the last post. So I decided to share it today. Here it goes:

 

I am not a racist or a sexist, but there is one thing I don’t want to hear anybody’s opinion on but from a black woman like myself. That’s my hair. Zero tolerance. Nobody understands unless they’re in the same predicament and to try to explain it almost trivializes it. So I will not explain, I am just going to say that having kinky hair in Copenhagen makes things even more challenging than they already are. And let me make it clear – it’s not a matter of love or hate. It’s more a question of uniqueness. And uniqueness, we all know, may be beautiful but it never made anybody’s life easy.

 

It’s irritating when white people say “oh, new hair!”. No! I’ve had these braids for 3months!!! “oh, did you do something to it?” No, I just pulled it up in a pony tail, which I do, like, every other day! “oh, ok.” Next day I let my hair down, “oh, new hair!” and we have to have the same conversation all over again. Same happens when I wash my hair, on a sunny day after 3 days of rain or when I use a different color scrunchy to put it up. I cannot tell you how that conversation tries my nerves. I’d rather not engage in it at all but feel I have to out of politeness. And forget about “can I touch it?” Grrr. 

 

Gee, I sounded pretty angry there! Interesting I used the word predicament too. I am glad I have found peace.

 

Yes, You May Touch My Hair October 15, 2012

Filed under: Hair — Yema Ferreira @ 10:32 pm
Tags: , ,

Like so many black women in the natural hair movement, I used to hate the can I touch your hair? request. It irked me to no end. I don’t remember ever saying no, but I remember sizzling up inside. I remember an acute feeling of discomfort. Why did they want to touch my hair? couldn’t they just ignore it? pretend as if it wasn’t there? why did they have to make comments about  my hair, to enquire – how do you do it? and how long does it take? and how long can you keep it? and did you get a haircut? Why so much interest in my hair when I was trying to keep it in the down low, to control and tame it, make it inconspicuous?

 

That’s the thing with our hair: it’s very conspicuous. You can’t walk in a room with an afro and go unnoticed. No undercover operation can be successful with our kind of hair unless it is nicely braided into submission or tamed in some other way.  The hair is wild and alive and wants to be seen and noticed, be a part of things. It’s like a rebellious child who refuses to be controlled, refuses to be taught what her parents believe are good manners, refuses for her spirit to be broken into submission. I like that in a child. Did not like it in my hair. It was the thing about being noticed all the time that bothered me, not so much the hair itself. I always kind of liked the hair. I just wished others would treat it as just that: hair.

 

But our hair is no ordinary thing, it can’t just sit there quietly, legs crossed, proper. I’ve accepted that now. These days I say thank you when I’m praised, hmm when criticized and gladly answer questions when asked. I’ve noticed that now that I’ve accepted my hair as it is, it doesn’t bother me anymore when people ask if they can touch it. Now that I’ve made my peace with it, it no longer bothers me when someone asks me to touch my hair. I remember being asked often when I was younger and traveling, and it didn’t bother me then. Why did it become a problem later? I realize now that that animosity was self-hate. Because I was unhappy and frustrated with my own hair, because I felt insecure about it, I projected that onto others. And I’m not saying anything about anybody else here, I’m speaking about my own experience with this issue. It doesn’t mean that it’s the same for everyone.

 

 
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