by Marques of BlackWomenOfBrazil

Gone
are days when kinky/curly hair was synonymous with mistreated and laborious
hair. Nowadays in Brazil, kinky/curly hair is increasingly associated with
self-assertion, self-esteem, behavior and femininity.

Mirella Santos

Globalization
and democratization of the media has greatly increased the speed of
information. This is not just a fad, but trends and intervals increasingly
shorter. A black woman can explore all this democratization of fashion, mixing
with curly hair with braids, weaves, straight and permanent afros.

Erica Barbosa

The
dancing rhythm of the Disco Era was a turning point for the black woman, with
her naturally curly hair, ethnic ornaments and bell-bottom pants. The lacquer
was a product often used to maintain the volume. It originated from a change of
behavior in a changing society.

The revival of culture
and the appreciation of black people has come along with their aesthetic, and one of the
most relevant in this respect is the hair. In the not too distant past, the kinky/curly
tresses were seen as a fragile part of black men and women, so much so that the
shaving of the hair during the era of slavery was common. For the slaves,
however, this act was tantamount to mutilation, since the hair was a hallmark
of their identity. And talking about kinky/curly hair is certainly going
through the social, cultural and political aspect of the history of black
people worldwide. It was with these references that the hairdresser Luciana Maia,
author of 
Força negra – a luta pela autoestima de um povo (Black Power – The Struggle for the Self-Esteem of a People) held a showcase in
Taboão da Serra, São Paulo, with the region’s youth, and presented a
retrospective of hairstyles permeated by the musical rhythms of each era. The
idea of a hairdresser (this article features young people from Sierra
Taboão) was to show that, regardless of prevailing fashion, kinky/curly hair
can adapt to any style. Just use creativity and good taste! “It was like remembering
the good times when we liked the “Bailes Black”(1). The ritual was never the same,
we were in our style, we had our clothes and shoes, and the hairstyles
represented everything that was hot,” says Luciana.

Hair stylist Luciana Maia, author of Força negra – a luta pela autoestima de um povo

In the era of the 70s that Luciana speaks, it is important to remember that black Brazilians were in a struggle for their very acceptance in a country that their African slave ancestors had built. The dominant ideology in Brazil was to strive to be white or as close to white as possible. African features (hair, dark skin, thick lips, etc) were not considered “acceptable” and if one could not “fix” these features, they should try to marry with a white or lighter-skinned partner so that their offspring were not also “cursed”. In the second half of the 20th century, it was still common for black Brazilians to be told something to the affect of “we don’t do THAT type of hair here” when going to salons in search of hair care. Because of the shame that accompanied having “that” type of hair, it was common for black men to shave their heads extremely close rather than facing certain discrimination because of having “cabelo ruim (bad hair)“. Because of these dominant ideals in Brazil, the global visibility of black American entertainers was extremely important in the development of black pride in Brazil. 

When international black
singers began to have success in Brazil, the “bailes black” began to spring up
everywhere and there were several event organizers that helped to disseminate,
besides the music, the aesthetics of black people. Everybody waited anxiously
for the great dances of the event organizers known as Chic Show, held once a
month with the presence of black Brazilian artists like Jorge Ben Jor, Sandra de Sá, Tim Maia,
Djavan, Bebeto and Claudio Zolli, while the big screen played videoclips of
international stars like the Jackson Five, Michael Jackson, Jimmy “Bo” Horne, Aretha
Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Johnny Rivers …“I am very proud to tell my
daughters that I was part of this story,” emphasizes the hairdresser (2).

Elinelma Rosa da Silva

Besides
the style known in Brazil as “Black Power (afro)”, women wear different types
of braids. The diversity allows black women to create classic hairstyles that
can be used in any environment and occasion, showing elegance and creativity.

Cássia da Silva

The Black Power
movement was a watershed moment in relation to the appreciation of black culture and,
consequently, its fashion and aesthetics, which combined the concept of beauty
to a political and social struggle. The dances served as meeting places, where the
language and expressions, born in salons, began to gain ground in the consumer
society. “Those were hard times, in spite of  blacks starting to show their identity,
Brazilian society was not used to that kind of behavior. It was very common for
police officers to ram their hands into our hair thinking they could find
drugs,” recalls Durval. In this era, Brazilian elites were very concerned with the idea that black Brazilians would begin to adapt the posture, attitude and revolutionary spirit of their black American counterparts. Brazilian Soul singer Tony Tornado (who had visited the US in the 1960s and recorded music with a strong James Brown influence) remembers being at parties where the police would often interrupt the festivities because there were no white people present!

But over time, the “black power (afro)” hair style was becoming a trend and it began to be copied by the white population that searched the salons specializing in black hair in search of the afro
permanente (3), all so that they could have curly or fluffy hair. “Today things are
different, everything is very mixed, before it was only at the dances and black
salons where we felt strengthened. The media did not show the great black icons,
we had no references, and what brought us together and dictated our fashion were
the parties.”

Kinky/Curly
in every way!

With the appreciation
of black beauty and its natural texture, kinky/curly tresses were taking the
streets and today are displayed in everyday life in different ways by men and
women, thanks to a series of products specially designed for this type of hair
and even more adapted to the Brazilian population. It was not always so. “Before
the 1970s, we had no option to treat our hair, unless straightening and in a
extremely primitive way. 
We used products that
had caustic soda as an ingredient and this caused burns. The professionals didn’t
have too many techniques. I remember a friend made a pick out of a bicycle rim!
I liked the idea so much that I decided to make one for myself, and this is how
I entered the world of black power (afro),” says Durval, a hair stylist that
has specialized in black hair for 30 years.

With the achievements
of blacks in society, the aesthetic industry has evolved and there are now many options
for black hair like creams to make the hair more manageable whether curly or
straight. Now, the black woman especially has options! “A woman executive can
safely wear an afro on a daily basis, adjusting the look with a plethora of
available accessories, in addition to buns and various other styles that, besides
letting her be stylish and trendy, shows a genuine attitude and
self-appreciation”, says Luciana Maia.

Mara Campos


The
Mohawk hairstyle was widely used in the ‘70s, representing a time of Rock n’ Roll
rebellion combined with the Samba. Thus was born the mixture of the Samba-Rock.
The style has become fashionable again.

“Today
it’s common for my clients to come to the salon to recover their natural locks.
Many are opting for extensions in an attempt to rehabilitate their hair and
stop straightening.”

Victoria Regina

The
accessories were the big thing of the hippie era. The lack of commitment to
society ran contrary to the personalized hairstyles. Long hair, usually parted
in the middle, were often used for generating peace and love, and adorned with
banners and hangers, whose symbols of flowers and butterflies represented respect
for nature.

“The
use of chemicals is just one of the options, not a necessity as it was thought
of in the past. With a lot of research, I developed a line of products in
accordance with the needs of kinky/curly hair.”


Fabio Santos, Cauan Almeida, Ismael nascimento, Marcos Leonardo and Ricardo Xeba

Hair,
Roots and Culture

And it was in the early
90s that American products invaded the shelves of the Brazilian market,
bringing the promise of perfect straightening. The demand for these products
was huge. Until then, the afro permanente was the great outlet for many women
who complained about the work needed to take care of kinky/curly hair. Many
opted for miraculous formulas to ‘work something out with their hair.’ But even
with imported products, hair loss and permanent damage to the scalp often
happened because of the inadequacy of the products being used for the hair
texture of black Brazilians. Even so, when one visits large Brazilians cities where there are large concentrations of African descendants, the number of ethnic salons sprouting up is impressive quite. Thus, whether you happen to be in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, S
ão Paulo or Brasília, it’s nice to know that you can find places that know how to take care of “that” kind of hair. 

1. “Bailes Black” or Black Dances are parties or dances that cater to a specifically black Brazilian audience where black style, fashion and music are the dominant aesthetic.
2. For more on the importance of music and dance in the development of a black pride in Brazil, see this article on singer Negra Li
3. Somewhat reminiscent of the Jheri Curl hairstyle


Based on an article by Claudia Canto in Raça Brasil magazine