By dance researcher Tia-Monique Uzor…
I came out of the theatre with cramp in my cheeks.
This was my experience at The Place on Tuesday night. Joy and elation, not only because this piece was a beautiful fusion of Afro-House, Contemporary, Vogue, Waacking and other styles (Uchenna’s signature style) but because this is a narrative that is so needed within the current global context where black narratives are coming to an abrupt end at the hands of those who are tasked to ‘serve and protect’. The positivity and nostalgia was empowering, yes this is our hair, these are our experiences and we love it. I am so glad that this is the message that is being spread across the country by Vicki Igbokwe and her company Uchenna Dance.
The Headwrap Diaries is set within a hair salon, the piece takes us on a journey of recognisable characters and experiences experienced by the African and African diasporic community; like wishing you had long blonde hair or having a relaxer burn your scalp. The dancers Shanelle Clemenson, Sheila Attah and Habibat Ajayi played multiple characters beautifully, their seamless transition and characterisation allowed you to connect with each personality and easily follow the narrative. They had an excellent rapport with the audience and encouraged audience participation. Sheila Attah played a Nigerian auntie character brilliantly and had the whole audience in stitches. The soundtrack included a variety of artists and was vibrant and nostalgic- #90sbaby it really captured the movement on stage.
This experience did not start and stop at the stage, walking into the bar there was pre-show installation contributed by Curlture UK, Lesley Asare, Mikela Henry-Lowe, beautiful art, design, and poetry. As well as other vendors selling hair related products. I found Jodie-Simone Howe, who was also the stylist for The Headwrap Diaries, selling beautiful brown one of a kind Barbie dolls with a variety of natural hair textures all with their own style #representationmatters.
The Headwrap Diaries created a space, this was a space carved out by Igbokwe (I will be talking this at Re:Generations in November), and it was so exciting to enter, to see people from many different backgrounds engaging within the black hair experience. One they wouldn’t have necessarily known about otherwise. To see your experience represented on stage and to share in those experiences with each others, laugh, cry and cringe together. This piece created community.
Have your own experience and laugh until you get cramp in your cheeks at The Lowry on 18th October
(Vicki Igbokwe is one of the artists that I have written about in a chapter for DAD at One Dance UK’s new book. We spoke about issues surrounding hair and her experience of going back to her natural hair texture within that interview. This is also something that I am looking at).
Featured photo by Foteini Christofilopolou