Salons & Sisterhood

 Artwork by Stylo Starr

Artwork by Stylo Starr

By: Sharine Taylor

There’s an insufferable dance that we’re willing to tolerate; induced by a tugging at the nape, with an aching neck that follows, we know it’s a small sacrifice we burden for the anticipated pièce de résistance. Whether it be a silk press, braids, treatment for the ones who’ve gone natural or a weave sewn to our tops, we have a sacred space in our hearts—and heads—for the salons we call home. And it’s never just about our hair either. We stay for the community, even the most loathed parts like the gossiping ladies or the boisterous children or the food runs that you always seem to miss. Nothing compares to the feeling that, quite literally, washes over you when you’re under the water rinsing out all the bad: The bad from your never-ending week, the bad from your insensitive boyfriend or the bad from that job you’d rather not go to. It all goes down the drain as you re-emerge a new woman; a feeling you experience with other women who have the same desires for fresh beginnings by way of their hair.

Every second Saturday was for pampering. I was seven years old and my Auntie Kay was the most fabulous woman I knew. Myself, Auntie Kay and my cousin Wrae-Quel would walk out of our Trethewey basement apartment and onto Eglinton West greeted with the chaos that the busy Little Jamaica streets had to offer. Auntie Kay’s nails were always manicured and her hair was always done; her go-to style was a bed of corkscrew curls adorning her crown, flowing right to her shoulders. Wrae-Quel and I would wait to see the finished product but what I loved and remember the most was how satisfying of a feeling it was seeing familiar faces; how all the other ladies would be out in the world, doing whatever it is that they were doing during the week, but would come to the same shop, at the same time, every second weekend without fail. That’s how I felt when I watched Da Kink. I sat on the same couch at the same time every Sunday without fail to experience that same feeling: salons and sisterhoods.

SalonsSisterhoods2.jpg

Da Kink was the highlight to my Sundays and was everything I wanted in a show. I looked forward to the animated and colourful Joy Campbell (Trey Anthony), who reminded me of the bashment aunties back home. My younger self was always in awe with how Joy’s sister,  Novelette (Ordena Stephens), was able to use her maternal, intuitive abilities to channel her client's anguish. Retrospectively, I realized that it was - and still is - everything I needed from a show. It brought all the cultural nuances of life in Toronto as an Afro-Jamaican person to the forefront and affirmed our realities. It was comical but still had moments of depth and insight and, even more importantly, it reminded me of the connection Black girls and women had with their hair and the sanctuary that is the salon.

The same dynamics that foster itself in a real sisterhood take place in the salon too. There’s likely a lady whose business you probably know too much of and there always seems to be a girl who should not have gotten that style in that colour. There’s (finally) a moment where the music playing gets good or the television shows a program you’re actually interested in...until someone changes the track, or complains about “this generation’s music” or someone’s auntie’s screams of precaution drown out the character’s dialogue on the screen. We don’t get along—there’s always that one girl—but we have a shared necessity to elevate ourselves through our aesthetics and that’s what binds us, even if only for a moment. Peace and quiet are definitely not mainstays but comfort is, and it’s why we return time and time again to have our crowns rebraided, re-pressed or retreated.

On Saturday mornings, my makeshift salon looks a little different now. It’s usually in the living room of whatever apartment I’m renting and the destiny of my hair is in the hands of my cousin, Wrae-Quel. We, two Afro-Jamaican girls, are much older but we delve into nostalgia while old reggae tunes and dancehall mixes serve as our backdrop. Ten years later, I wish we could turn on Da Kink. It doesn’t air anymore but I replace that wish with expired jokes and the satisfaction of knowing that this ritual between my cousin and I hasn’t fazed out. Within a few hours, I feel refreshed—with a new hairstyle to match. Adopting my Auntie’s style, the curls cascade from my head just past my shoulders.

Here’s to laid edges.

Here’s to feeling confident.

Here’s to salons and sisterhoods.