Tania Bruguera is a controversial performance artist of international acclaim. Born in Havana, Cuba in 1968, Bruguera grew up in a time when Cuba’s relations with the global community, and the United States in particular, were strained. Receiving degrees from the Cuban Instituto Superior de Arte and the American School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bruguera would eventually establish residences in both Havana and Chicago, travel the world, and receive awards and academic acclaim both for her artwork and for her efforts as a public speaker, political activist, and founder and director of Arte de Conducta, the first Cuban performance-art program.
Hair is political
“Hair is political” has become a commonplace statement in black feminist circles. I don’t know that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is responsible for popularizing the phrase, but she certainly seems to be the person saying it most often these days. The first time I can recall hearing someone discuss the racial-cum-gender politics of hair was at the 2011 Annual Women’s Studies Conference in Pensacola, Florida. The speaker, Aphrodite Kocieda, described the straightening and lengthening of hair—and white mimicry in general—as a tool black women use to obtain visibility in a “racist, sexist, patriarchal society.”
That was a long time ago, but all this talk about racist hair and political hair lately has me wondering: What about white folk’s hair? If the straightening of black hair represents racial sublimation and an attempt to conform to other groups’ standards of beauty, then what does the curling and perming of European/white hair signify?