The Loop in my Tress Sings This Song
A play by
Directed by Jessica Mensah
Performed at Omnibus Theatre from Nouveau Riche and Colchester Merchury Theatre.
The scene opens with three black women with different hair textures and ages seated down with their backs facing the audience so all they see is their hair.
Woman A is aged 24 wearing natural slicked back hair.
Next, to A is C aged 14 in a schoolgirl with her hair in a big bushy ponytail. Finally, E is a Jamaican woman aged 60.
Three spot lights projected on each female.
One by one they begin to sing ‘Wade In The Water’ and then hum the lyrics.
A, steps forward and begins to speak. She speaks in the first and second person narrative into an imaginary mirror. Lights more focused on her.
Fade into a normal wash when character A, rises from her seat.
A: My hair is a story of defence against the slurs that protrude themselves out into the open.
She frames herself while speaking
A: My hair is hopeful.
Your hair is an exhibition of the first ancestors where I am taught of long-lost history.
My hair is the symphony of corpses relishing in the breakthrough they never had.
During her speech, she is dancing slowly. There is a sense of tease, classy allure and confidence.
My hair is an umbrella of refuge reminding me of home.
My hair is a stir. My hair is an arousal. My hair is a petition for liberty.
My hair is the strength and glory of the black woman: defiant and exciting. Exuberant and redeeming. Your hair is a beast and the best-kept secret of perfection.
My hair is an anthem of the dawning. My hair is a festival of lights.
Your hair is like a dance under the moonlight and stars. I want to soak up every moment in its presence.
There’s a suspenseful pause at this point before she continues.
My hair is the outcry of the slave. My hair is the pot of gold at the end of the rainy day when my mother was abandoned for a woman with “nicer hair.”
Her confidence begins to decrease.
The lights flash more intensely.
Your hair is knotty, unkempt and wild.
My hair a ruse fooling you into believing its truth. A stumbling block to your success.
Your hair is a mystery better left unknown.
My hair is narrow. It can’t exceed pass failure.
Tension. She is struggling to regain her composure and emotional stability.
My hair is worrisome. My hair is a danger to society.
She holds an imaginary phone to her ears.
PHONE RECORDING: Dear Miss. Glover, I’m sorry to inform you that you were unsuccessful in this interview process --
My hair is a story of revival and death, revival and death. –
PHONE RECORDING: Your hair seemed to draw attention and we want to create an environment where employees can be focused
Death and revival
PHONE RECORDING: Your appearance didn’t seem to fit the professional setting we aim to create.
My hair is shameful. —
PHONE RECORDING: Consider putting more effort into your appearance in your future endeavours. Best of luck.
My hair is me.
A, studies her hair in the reflection in the mirror. The mirror is the audience. She sits back down.
Stays in natural wash lighting.
CHARACTER C steps forward. She is 14-year-old school girl. Spotlight on her. She’s shy and and little more reserved than the other women. There is a clear innocence and naivety to this character. While speaking, she'll be acting out the memories with her mum.
C: Mum likes to wash and comb my hair. She knows I’m old enough to do it but she takes pride caring for my hair. She says it's our bonding time and I like when she does it too. She starts by gently massaging my scalp and sings songs over me. She uses her own homemade shampoo made with black soap, aloe vera, coconut oil and vanilla scented essential oil. It smells so sweet and leaves my hair rich and smooth. She scrubs my scalp twice with the shampoo ensuring my hair is exquisitely clean. Then she takes her homemade conditioner made up of aloe vera and organic olive oil. She allows it to absorb into my curls for 30 minutes to an hour. She combs through my curls to help detangle it. She then plaits my hair in sections to assist further in detangling it. While we wait for the solution to activate, she tells me stories of the past. How her mum didn’t know how to care for her and her sibling's hair; how she always struggled with hairstyles that suited her facial structure. She jokes about the time her brother got gum stuck in her hair and she had to cut it all off. She went bold for months and that moment forced her to appreciate beauty without it growing from her scalp. After about 30 minutes to an hour, its time wash out my hair and add natural shea butter mixed with more olive oil into my wet curls. She gently applies it to my scalp and the roots of my curls. Then combs through each plait. I love the feeling of the comb breezing through the thick ends of my hair as easy as biting into juicy ripe mangos. Then she gets the blow dryer to blow dry my hair and says, ‘ready?’ I say, ‘yeah, I’m ready.’ The blow dryer refines the length of my hair. The water shrinks it while the blow dryer allows it to expand. Finally, she flat twists the sides of my hair and cornrows the front and she places it into a big bun, twists the ends, looks at me and says, ‘now that’s my beautiful girl.’
That’s why it hurt her so bad when I went to school and the teacher told me I wasn’t dressed appropriately. ‘What do you mean?’ Looking at my uniform, I have my tie, I have the school badge, I have the right shoes, my skirt is just above knee length. Then she points to my hair. ‘What’s wrong with my hair?’ She says, ‘it's not appropriate for school.’ ‘Why?’ She says, “it draws attention away from the lesson. Can’t you make it look straighter like the other girls?” ‘Huh, my mum says that damages the natural texture and protein in my hair,’ she says, “stop back talking.” ‘I’m not. I’m just confused.’ The class starts laughing at me. She says, “be confused in detention and get out of her classroom.” I stand shocked.
My best friend Daniela watches me with pity in her eyes as I walk out of the class slowly in defeat.
My mum said I’m her beautiful girl.
I thought I was mum’s beautiful girl.
I guess I’m no longer mum’s beautiful girl.
After a slow defeat she gets back into her seat.
The next lady steps up to speak.
Stays in natural wash lightening.
E: I grew up in a time when d press was in style. Every woman had it. Me get me first press at de age of six. Growing up every Saturday was press day. Me mother would heat it up that metal comb on the stove and wait till it was sizzling hot. While we a wait, she would grease my edges and moisturized my hair using Bobby’s butter from Bobby’s butter shop. She'd take a whole slope of that stuff and plant it pon me head. (she acts this out)
Then it was time to press me hair. As the comb went through me head, I’d heard it sizzling. That's how you knew it was in effect. Smoke would wiggle its way out into the open. Mumma was so talented, she’d be talking on d phone to pops and calling after d twins to settle down and be cooking all at d same time! I was so scared that I’d be burnt! I could feel the heat on me baby cheeks.
Of course, no one understood that we were just burning we hair to conform to a texture foreign to its own. Or maybe they did but it wasn’t of any concern. But that was the 60s when everyone wanted to look like Aretha Franklin. (struggles to sing song)
I know I did. (cheeky smile)
But once d 70s rolled around it was all about natural hair. Afros made its debut, and everyone wanted to rock their natural coils. It was the era of liberation and I was still a young girl then, but I loved it. As time progressed and I became a woman in the workplace, me a start ta perm me hair because it fitted the professional setting. I didn’t want to cause a riot. So, I permed me hair for the next 15 years. I was content until my hair started to fall out. I was washing me hair one day and my hair was falling out in clumps!
Me a scream wit a frieght because a woman is nothing without her hair. I started to experience fainting spells and dizziness and I was always tired. I then found out I had the cancer of the breast. My hair was falling out as a result; and it was aggressive too. So, I decided to shave off me hair. Tim, my husband was shocked but he supported me. And in that season of battling cancer with me family pon me side, I decided to lose me breasts. I wanted to keep one, but they said the chances of it coming back was very high, so I did what I had to do. It was hard. But you know, I grew to love myself without any hair and without any breasts. I look back and think what was all the fuss about? It’s just hair, right? Now, I am cancer free and I keep my curls short. It took me 15 years to say it, but all of me is beautiful and all of me deserves to be told.
All the women get up, come together holding hands and repeat to the audience.
ALL: All of us are beautiful and our hair is a story worth telling.