Imagine a world where bald black girls reigned... A review of 'Bald Black Girls' at Free Word
“I have seen heaven, it is queer as fuck..”
Poet Chelle OT undoubtedly set the tone for the evening with a poetry recitation, asking us to imagine a “celestial bubble” where everyone is growing. Growth and what growth can look like, in terms of breaking free from notions of gender and societal expectations is what Free Word’s second season: All The Ways We Could Grow asks us to reflect on and engage with. The season takes its name from performance artist Travis Albanza and designer Denny Kaulbach’s free poetic bedroom installation, which is the heart of the programme and on display throughout the season, which runs till the 10th of May.
As part of the season’s programme Ruth Sutoyé debuted her short film ‘Reign,’ which is part of her endeavours with Bald Black Girls: a project that Sutoyé started three years ago, at the beginning of her own head-shaving journey. The project initially started as a way of connecting with other black women who shared and negated similar experiences in male-dominated barber shops, dating, family and society as a whole. Since then, Bald Black Girls has evolved into a multi-disciplinary platform that narrates varied stories of black women, who have chosen to shave their heads through expressions of poetry, film, photography, workshops and panel discussions.
We had the pleasure of attending the Bald Black Girl's premiere of ‘Reign’ at Free Word. The evening started with a poetry reading by poet Chelle OT and Anita Barton. The readings set the tone for the screening of ‘Reign.’ The visuals entranced the audience into a world where only bald black women exist. The film portrays women of all shapes, sizes and bald style haircuts (low cuts, colour and bald) supporting and caring for one another. When asked about the message of the film, Sutoyé shared that she hopes it will “boost up women and young girls” with bald haircuts - and we are sure it will. Each candid frame of the film is an invitation to look beyond the white gaze, the male gaze and the prevalent narrative around black hair.
After the screening, there was a panel discussion moderated by Aliyah Hasina, which saw an open discussion take place between Ruth Sutoyé, visual artist Rayvenn D’Clark, business woman Gina Atinuke Knight and aspiring clinical psychologist Sarah Atayero. The topics that were addressed were the importance of representation of bald black women in media and the far-reaching impact this could have for women with conditions such as postpartum hair loss and Alopecia, as well as the role that hair plays in connecting black women, workplace hair politics and the type of societal attention that a bald/low cut attracts.
The evening ended on a hopeful note and Sutoyé assured us that events and workshops were planned to address the growth that needs to happen, to shift the way that bald black women and girls are perceived and experience the world. So stay tuned for future endeavours from Bald Black Girls and for more information visit their website: baldblackgirls.com.