Black is beautiful. It is a spectrum rather than a strict constraint, yet colorism and racism have washed away and whittled down the presence of Black women to only what is digestible; lighter skin, curly but not kinky hair, African features that aren’t too African. People of color must pass a brown bag test to judge the lightness of skin, chemically straighten hair, walk and talk a certain way, not act too “ghetto” or “ratchet”, act in self-hatred to fit into a colorist society valuing most Eurocentric features.
Black women have been groomed into the ideal since slavery. Thick kinky hair wasn’t “desirable” and many women were forced to shave their heads. Our cultural values of beauty were stripped from us. Colorism has only evolved further. Mass media plays into colorism by primarily grandstanding lighter-skinned women as more feminine and desirable while darker complexions are viewed as aggressive and unattractive. My figures created in red clay that once my ancestors walked on, embody a journey to overcoming constraining ideals. Red clay sculptures are blackwashed in carbon black ink to deepen their complexion. Black, deep brown, and red- are the beautiful colors my figures take on. Their skin reflects the spectrum of Blackness that is so overlooked.
Pulling, pinching, and twisting mediums feel as if I am replicating the process of doing my own hair yet I am creating a wonderful crown of hair for my pieces. The spray foam used to create bubbly afro hair gives pieces an enigmatic depth as it is royally decorated with gold leaf, purple resin, and a tiny golden hair crown. Braids, locks, twists, and afros, are all decorated with such hair accessories as the golden crown giving the wearer confidence. Sunday hair day was never complete without accessorizing the fresh box braids with colorful beads or barrettes. Loving memories as such are embedded into the souls of each piece created. My hands dip into Blue Magic grease, coating my coily hair with nourishment. As such my pieces are created by the same hands. The history of Sunday’s hair washing days, twisting my own hair, carefully braiding and plaiting, reflect in the pieces created.
Sculptures are celebrating their beauty through being comfortable with their afros and dark skin however the journey to self-love is full of years of pain. People touching my hair without consent, being called names such as “Oreo”, or simply not being Black enough are struggles many faces. However, the suffering of colorism and racism should not be a restraint but rather another piece of the narrative of overcoming such negativity.