On the journey of self-discovery, I became curious about adornment and how this plays a role in the lives of women of color. It is one of those “hindsight is 20/20” type situations. Looking back on my childhood, I remember the beads and barrettes that my mom put in my hair. The feeling when I shake my head and the unforgiving pain of beads slapping me in the face- the dread of coming home knowing that half the beads fell off during recess. But most importantly, I remember being one of the few that would wear those colorful
adornments (as the majority of my classmates had long, flowy, and straight hair that could not hold the style). Moving to the present day, I have learned to love, and therefore dive deeper, into body adornments and how it has influenced the African diaspora.
“Femininity in general is seen as frivolous. People often say feminine people are doing “the most”, meaning that to don a dress, heels, lipstick, and big hair is artifice, fake, and a distraction. But I knew even as a teenager that my femininity was more than just adornments; they were extensions of me, enabling me to express myself and my identity. My body, my clothes, and my makeup are on purpose, just as I am on purpose.”
An Act of Creative Self-Love
I’ve always loved dressing up and/or spending time on my appearances. For a while, I wondered whether I was being vain or hypercritical of what people would think of me. But after some research and reflection, I realized that it is ACTUALLY a form of self-love! I honor my body by putting gold embellishments in my locs, getting my nails done, and every now and then, stepping out into the world with a hint of glitter on my skin. Now, my form of celebration is not for everyone BUT it can and should take many forms depending on what makes YOU happy in your skin.
Adornment in the Diaspora
This idea of adorning and beautifying our bodies is not new! Indigenous cultures have always done this to show their age, status, spiritual intention, what tribe they belonged to, and special occasions. African tribes honored their bodies through scarification, paint,
jewelry, and clothing. Traditions like neck stretching of the Zimbabwe Women to the resilience of head wrapping that traveled from Africa to North America through slavery, adorning our bodies is PART of who we are as black women! This history shares similarities with other women of color. When I found out about how Maasai and Fulani cultures practiced ear stretching, it inspired me to take part in this tradition as a way to honor my body and my ancestral roots. There are so many cultures that use creative ways to embellish and beautify themselves!
Decorating our bodies is a way to celebrate who we are and where we came from! It highlights how amazing and creative we are. From our hair to our skin to our nails, we are a work of art and we should not let anyone tell us otherwise nor try to dim our sunshine. This world is a tough one, might as well live in it lookin’ like a real-life goddess!