Addressing and exploring the objectification of black women’s hair through the eyes of western society, SCALPED is the new dance theatre piece that’s educating the masses on the experiences black women face on an everyday basis. After making their debut at Brighton Festival in May, we caught up with the creators of SCALPED, Damilola D.K Fashola and Wofai, ahead of their London’s Greenwich + Docklands International Festival. Here’s what went happened:
What first gave you the idea to create “SCALPED?”
The piece was created in response to a call out from our partners GDIF, part of the Without Walls Consortium for an outdoor piece that explores “living in the city”. With our native city being the cosmopolitan metropolis that is London, what came to mind almost immediately was the shared experience of Black women (and men) of being looked at, poked and prodded, and how much our hair becomes the focal point of this in day-to-day life.
Why did you choose dance as the expressive medium?
All our work incorporates physical theatre, with both movement and acting featured throughout. The nature of outdoor work makes physicalising a piece and the emotions behind it all the more significant. So dance theatre was a natural choice. On a personal level, dance (and music) is such a big part of who we are. Dance is our culture and another way we express ourselves.
Obviously “SCALPED” touches on experiences that a lot of black women deal with – Have you dealt with these experiences yourself? and if so, how did you handle them?
There have been plenty of instances, from childhood to today where both of us have had people ask “can I touch your it [your hair]?” It was only a few weeks ago a random lady saw me with my crochet afro/braid out, only to stroke my hair and tell me “what a good girl.” Honestly I was amazed and lost for words that a stranger would not just, think to, but actually say that to me. She just stood there and I reflexively walked away even be I had processed what had just happened.
It’s a funny one because often you feel like you should or need to educate someone on what’s wrong with what they’re doing, but at the same time, it’s almost not even, or shouldn’t even be your responsibility.
You debuted “SCALPED” in Brighton, and you’ve been on a short tour around the UK since. What’s the been like? and How has the reception been?
It’s a 3 city tour with London being our 2nd stop. The interim between shows has been a bit odd in fact, as it’s almost like we had to take time to get used to the show again and coming back into the process/rehearsals
The show is hinged on the objectification of black women’s hair through the eyes of western society. A topic that some people don’t believe is true. Have you received any backlash?
We haven’t received any backlash thankfully. It has been interesting to hear non-black audiences realise that it’s something they don’t think about or realise can be so significant for black women
We live with a dominant narrative that insists the only choice to look presentable is for black women to wear their hair straight. How do you believe we can change this, especially for young girls who don’t feel comfortable enough to showcase their natural hair?
Education. Pieces like Scalped which can bring awareness in an engaging way, and generally informing yourself of the history and culture of other people – or to be honest, often your own culture – and how that’s shaped norms and perceptions today are a big part of changing this discourse/discussion
What do you think about how more women choosing to embrace their natural hair and start their natural hair journey?
Funnily enough, Scalped is about “attachments or no attachments”, so that’s feeling free to rock any style you choose, and loving yourself regardless of that choice. I personally don’t believe in any treatment or similar that can severely damage your hair, so relaxers, perms etc. But I have always been adventurous with my hair – I’ve probably had it dyed every colour under the sun at least once.
Ultimately I think it’s great, and reflect people learning to love themselves more. It’s funny that even within the natural hair community, there is still the glamourising of a particular look of natural hair. Usually a looser curl huge afro will get a lot more shine that a 4c TWA might. But the whole movement is a journey in of itself so I’m grateful for the progress.
How do you feel about people touching or asking to touch your hair when you’re wearing it naturally?
People ask, or just straight touch it whether it’s natural or not. The overriding feeling is always to do with an invasion of personal space, if not a complete violation. This and feeling like I’m seen as an animal or something less than human to be stroked or petted in that way
Who is the intended audience for “SCALPED” – the black audience? Everyone else? or all the above?
Definitely all of the above. Black audiences will relate to the majority, if not every aspect of the piece. And everyone else is being invited to take part in the much-needed dialogue. And of course, we want everyone to be entertained, seeing and experiencing black bodies, black artistry in ways they haven’t before
Besides the obvious, what else do you hope people take away from “SCALPED?“
We hope people are more aware of the perception of women, specifically Black women. Less judgment and a huge takeaway is definitely that being a Black woman isn’t one dimensional – we are so many things, forms, fashions and cultures. Whatever we are, love us or f**k off. Celebrate Black women, celebrating oneself and or blackness in whichever form it takes.