Women make the cut in Accra, Ghana

In a recent Loop21 article, Llanor Alleyne discusses the fear imposed on her when she decided to embrace a Caesaresque coif:

When I got my first short haircut in my teens—out of the sheer frustration of dealing with relaxers and not out of any need to declare my sexuality—my barber had to be convinced that I could handle what may come after I got out of his chair. The patina of his worry held the revulsion that he might somehow be responsible for unleashing me on the unsuspecting, good people of Bed-Stuy. That I had to carry both my fear and his was a weight that stayed with me as I negotiated not only my community, but my cultural standing with black movement groups I got involved with at my university.

I have been mulling this over since I read this last week. I empathize with Black women who must face these fears because they seek a different look or a different lifestyle related to their hair. When I transitioned to a natural hairstyle in 2005, my university community was similarly rankled. “Are you a lesbian?,” some asked. “Do you hate men?,” others probed. Yet, my desire to be natural had nothing to do with my sexual orientation or men, it was about getting more in-tune with my identity as an American of Ghanaian origin.

In Ghana, when one sees a woman rockin’ what pop magazines commonly refer to as the “Amber Rose” they don’t read lesbian or gender deviant. The woman who sports Eleanor Holmes Norton’s coif is only seen as embracing her beautiful African self. Yes, it is true that some schools impose the short cut as a part of the school uniform reasoning that the time girls would invest in hair would be better invested in school work. But the ubiquity of the Caesar spans all ages and genders and it has been one of the most enjoyable parts of people watching in Accra.

Alleyne’s memories of Bedstuy and mine of my university community starkly contrast with the sights I saw on July 17th, when I spent an hour promenading around the local neighborhood of Adenta in Ghana’s capitol. I took the liberty of photographing these dashing haircuts. It is my hope that this set of pictures on Flickr will serve as a reminder to girls and women who desire short hair that negative perceptions about their coifs don’t exist everywhere, and that there are places where one’s natural hair is truly a symbol of beauty and nothing else.

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