International Women’s Day: The empowered women celebrating Afro-centric beauty
As part of our series on International Women’s Day, we’re exploring how women identify and balance their personal identities.
Photographer Nathan McGill – currently based in Birmingham – has been documenting what it means to be a Black woman embodying natural Afro hair; celebrating the beauty of African and Caribbean women through visual representation, in this case, photography.
The standards of beauty within British society inflict Eurocentric idealism. These standards are constantly pushed through contemporary media outlets, forcing many women of African and Caribbean descent to conform to these European standards of beauty.
McGill’s visual research project titled “The Women in Trees” is an interdisciplinary body of work that combines both visual and oral means to highlight the individual experience of Black women.
The 19-year-old creative has been using his creativity to collaborate with eight individuals to represent their often-neglected, African beauty, in a series of stunning black and white photographs.
The ongoing project is part of a wider collection of work McGill is currently pursuing, spotlighting the experiences of minority communities, including refugees, migrants, LGBTQ+ individuals and people of colour.
Here’s how these 8 women are celebrating their natural Afro hair:
“I was surrounded by the image of long, flowing, straight hair. I’d watch adverts of all these hair products and none of them were promoting hair like mine. I was so desperate to change it, too thing it out. I relaxed it once too, and I’d straighten it whenever I had the energy too.”
“I believe that Afro hair shows a part of our history. For black women and men, Afro hair also shows power and unity. Afro hair will forever be our signature style, its a part of our history.”
“A positive experience is the feeling I get when a little black girl sees me in my natural hair and she smiles because my hair looks like hers. Whenever I see a little girl like this I tell her how beautiful her hair looks. She’s going to receive enough negative messages from the world, so I want to make sure I’m part of building her up with confidence and courage as she gets older, when the temptation to relax or straighten her hair will prove a strong pull.”
“As much as they mean no harm, my hair isn’t an animal in a petting zoo.”
“Sometimes people will touch my hair without permission which makes me feel like I’m some sort of artefact.”
“My afro mean a lot of things to me; it’s a clear product of my ethnicity, a defining feature of my beauty, and heavily symbolic of my heritage.”