You Can Touch My Hair: An Interactive Public Art Exhibit Dispelling Cultural Taboos

You Can Touch My Hair eventYou Can Touch My Hair eventYou Can Touch My Hairis a public art exhibit where strangers from all walks of life had the welcomed opportunity to touch various textures of black hair. The event was held at Union Square, New York City, and was coordinated by Un'ruly founders and sisters, Abigail and Antonia Opiah.

Okay, what's the big deal, you ask?

Hair is a BIG deal especially for women of color. There are stereotypes, myths, misconceptions, judgements, and generalizations made based our hairstyles. There is also a genuine curiosity that's centered around the versatility of black hair that at time results in unwelcome fondling or awkward hair questioning.

Taboo to some, to others a joke (I mean really, you can't be serious?), or to women like myself with big, bushy but tightly coiled hair; a known reality. I have been completely taken off guard by 'hands in hair situations'. My hair stops conversations or quickly becomes the topic of discussion.

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Yes, complete strangers welcome the opportunity to talk about my hair AND touch it. Questions such as "How do you get it to do that?" are the norm. Un'ruly has simply welcomed these teaching moments with open arms. When asked what they were thinking, here's what co-founder, Antonia Opiah, had to say:

"You Can Touch my Hair (YCTMH) was that statement [of explaining my feels of unsolicited hair touching]. It was a way of telling those who have stolen a touch or asked for one how it makes me and others like me feel - like an object put on display. But I also wanted to use it as an opportunity to further understand why someone might think that act or solicitation is okay and why black hair is such a novelty. This hair-touching conversation has been going on for a while. It's not new. But we've only been talking about it amongst ourselves. Maybe hearing the other side would shed some light." (Read more)

I didn't have the opportunity to attend the exhibit, but I'm not sure what role I would've played had I been there - one of the women welcoming the hand's of strangers, or just a spectator. I'm also a little indifferent in response to the exhibit. I can relate to the experiment, but as a germaphobe, strangers touching me is out of the question, although I do find the interactions of this experiment intriguing.

- By Tamara Floyd

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