Ayesha Casely-Hayford, Brixton based solicitor and actress, shares her new project “Afro Archives A Performers World” Watch on YouTube
On set last year, I met a couple of actresses and we got chatting about our afro hair and choices we make relating to our acting work. Between us we had wigs, weaves and braids: and different roles in the film. Was our hair affecting whether we got jobs and the kinds of jobs we got? Who knows, but it was amusing, interesting and I decided to ask my other actor friends about their hair experiences.
That’s how “Afro Archives A Performers World” came into being. I called it Afro Archives because I wanted to create something where “afro” means something to everyone, beyond cultural background and that we embrace what we are not as part of what we are.
Complicated perhaps! But it’s the reason why “Afro Archives” includes actors with all different hair-textures and from all different cultural backgrounds, so that we can compare and contrast hair experiences, and really identify with the afro-hair experience. I don’t think I could do that properly and with integrity, if I only spoke to people with afro hair on my videos. I set my chats in a performers world because in the visual arts how we look, matters. It’s the perfect setting to chat hair.
“Afro Archives A Performers World” has become a 12-episode series of chats about hair. Each episode is split into three parts (so they’re not too long). On the last day of every month, a different topic. For example in October, Black History Month, the topic is “Why Go Natural?” in November “Would You Shave Off All Your Hair For A Film?”. It’s freestyle, topic based chats.
As we enter May we are four episodes down with eight to go. They live on their own YouTube Channel, so you can follow, subscribe and comment, check-in and relate with hair stories of your own. In one of the early episodes, one of the actresses said that when she was growing up she was told her hair was like a Brillo Pad – I’ve never heard that before…but apparently that’s not an uncommon comment on afro hair, there’s clearly a lot to learn. What are people like.
With awesome support from the Black Cultural Archives hosting us for our filming, and online not-for-profit platform Africa Fashion providing our stills via Robbie Spotswood, plus giving me a blog column, Afro Archives is a project of solid generous support. Living in Brixton, that’s the way we work and that’s the way we know life is at its best. Our original music is by up-coming composer Livvy Baker-Mendoza and the whole project is built on generosity, and good friendship.
You can catch the latest episodes on YouTube and follow the Africa Fashion blog too. When it comes to our hair, we are born with it, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to change our natural hair texture. Which is why the hair business is massive. Forever manipulating hair to achieve a desired look. I would say one way or another – curly, bald, straight – hair is a never-ending saga. I’d love to hear other people’s comments and experiences, #AfroArchives – amazing hair, talks!