Earlier this year, Pierre Jean-Louis, an artist based on the East Coast, posted a photo of a Black woman’s hair that he reimagined as a piece of art that looked like a perfectly coiled galaxy. Since then, Jean-Louise has continued to post artistic renditions of Black women’s hair on Instagram, and every photo is as beautiful as the last.
In his work Jean-Louis reminds Black women and the rest if the world that we cannot let others or society’s commentary on our hair ever make us feel like we are not worth being viewed as beautiful.
Mainstream White culture has always felt the need to police and discuss Black hair. Braids were viewed as an unprofessional style that did not belong in the workplace. White culture’s idealized versions of what makes hair beautiful affected the natural hair community, making it so that only certain types of hair, usually the kind that was perfectly curled or bouncy, were seen as beautiful and worth celebrating. As a Black woman, it makes you feel like that your hair is not your’s. It belongs to the society which wants to mock, or examine your tresses for misguided reasons.
This feeling of your hair not belonging to you starts at an early age, and at times it feels like the commentary is too much to bear. In my adolescence I remember sitting in class, feeling the cackles of a boy I used to like as he mocked my natural hair. I laughed with him because, at the time, I didn’t know what else to do.
For a while I continued believing that my hair and my body weren’t beautiful, magical, or powerful. It was not until later on that I learned that my hair, just like my Black skin, is gorgeous, radiant, and magical. Younger me needed Jean-Louis’ images to show me the powers of my Black hair and skin that I had forgotten.
In his images, our hair is both out of this world and a part of nature. One photo can depict a majestic forest scenery that rests inside the Afro while the other is able to contain a galaxy. The photos are powerful in their vivid colors and their representation of the versatile nature of Black hair.
I love these photos because they are more than just images. They are a rallying cry, that reminder, that warm embrace that every Black woman needed when a society told them they are not powerful or beautiful enough to be wanted.