Thursday the 11th of April saw the private viewing of Ruth Sutoyé’s first solo exhibition titled Bald Black Girls. Curated by Sutoyé and Aliyah Hasinah, Bald Black Girls explores Black women’s relationship with hair, the construction of femininity and masculinity in relation to hair, as well as sexuality that is imposed on their being as a result of the chosen hairstyle. Through photography, spoken word, and unfiltered and raw interviews, Sutoyé captures the experiences of Black British Women who chose to go bald “as a form of expression, resistance, style” or “as a result of alopecia”.
In the past few years, during the wave of the natural hair movement, Black women’s hair has being a site of political conversations, sometimes uninvited. Our bodies and being have long been seen/used as a method of resistance against the white hegemonic standard. What Sutoyé does with this brilliant exhibition is lay out the voices of women who come from different perspectives that are not all politically inclined; they choose to be bald because it’s easer to maintain, others choose to be bald to make an “I am not my hair” statement, and for some, it’s a way of expressing their style/fashion.
The private viewing of this exhibit was a coming together of unfiltered joy; the celebration of a brilliant storytelling by a young Black bald woman who herself made the decision to go bald 3 years ago. Sutoyé has reignited the conversation about hair, centering it on the Black British women’s experience, creating a space to have candid conversations like the one below:
What the women in this conversation are discussing is a reality for many (bald) black girls whose sexuality is considered up for debate from the moment they deviate from the dominant ideas of femininity, thus tagging them as “manly” – due to societies dualistic thinking on gender, you are categorised as either feminine or masculine, which woefully fails to reckon with, firstly, the restrictive nature of such a construction and secondly, genders fluid nature. “But I just don’t want to be politicised anymore, you know what I mean?” (BBG 1) is not a foreign feeling for many Black women. We simply just want to be and this is what Sutoyé allows the women involved in this project to do: To be, being, and becoming.
Bald Black Girls is open to the public from 12th of April – 16th of April, 10am to 6pm at Unit 5 Gallery, Yorkton Street, E2 8NH. Closest station is: Hoxton (Overground). Take half an hour or so out of your time to visit this much needed exhibition. Note: Unfortunately, the building is not a wheelchair accessible building.