Many of you may know that I’m from Trinidad. And many of you may also know that I didn’t rock my natural hair until 2002, years after I migrated from my homeland. When I lived in Trinidad, I felt pressured to wear my hair relaxed. Even when I saw signs of damage, I kept on using chemical relaxers and hair color until my hair was truly dyed and fried. But all around me in Trinidad, there were proud naturalistas. Some were my teachers, or my friends’ moms. And now when I go back to Trinidad, it is so beautiful to see natural hair in all of its varied textures, styles and lengths. The movement truly took root!

This post is intended to kick off a series meant to celebrate international naturals around the world, telling their stories in their words to gain an understanding of the natural hair scene in another country. First stop, my homeland of  Trinidad and Tobago, where the beautiful bellas of the Continuum Dance Project all wear their hair in its natural state. Here’s a big group of the dancers at Queen’s Hall this past October at COCO Dance Festival, before their performance of “No Mourning…no more.”

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Through their artistic director and choreographer, the illustrious Sonja Dumas, I was able to connect and ask a few members of the dance collective some questions about being natural in Trinidad.

All photos are by Michele Jorsling. And you can click here to check out Continuum Dance Project on Facebook!

Internationally Natural —  Continuum Dance Project, Trinidad and Tobago

Continuum Dance Project is an all-female, multi-generational dance company with dancers ranging in age from late teens to mid-fifties.  Founded in 2004 by choreographer, performer and filmmaker Sonja Dumas, the company is a laboratory for creating contemporary Caribbean movement. Artistic director and choreographer Sonja Dumas’ work explores various aspects of Caribbean society, including race, isolation, divinity and perceptions of beauty.

Continuum members recently posed for these photos. In the spirit of the holiday season, the dancers are celebrating, among other things, their natural hair. Here are some of the company members!

 

Sonja

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Name: Sonja Dumas

How long have you been natural? This time around, about eighteen years.

Have you always loved your natural hair, or did you have to learn how to love it? I have always loved my natural hair. I’ve had natural hair for most of my life, in fact. But I’ve had a few bouts of experimentation with jerry curls, straightening and even a hot moment when I decided to get a peroxide-induced streak as a highlight. But somehow those never did it for me – I would always return to natural.

 What products do you use for cleansing and styling your hair? I’m mainly in olive oil mode these days. I use olive oil shampoo. I’ve recently begun using a Dr. Miracles Double Deep Moisturizing Masque conditioner which contains olive oil, sunflower and jojoba oils. I also really like olive oil jelly and Soft and Silky Olive Oil cream moisturizer. I do an occasional moisturizer ‘switcheroo’ with extra virgin coconut oil.

What advice do you have for women who want to go natural? Have the confidence to do it if that’s what you really want. Don’t let society tell you otherwise. If it’s new to you, trust that you (and your hair) will grow into the style or styles that suit you. And wear it/them with confidence. Many people compliment me about my hair and I think half of their admiration comes from the attitude with which I wear the various styles.

Is there a natural hair scene in Trinidad, or do you feel like we have always embraced natural hair? We’ve always embraced it on one level and rejected it on another. For instance, dreadlocks have been a part of our hair choices for decades, but society often prescribed looks for us that took us away from our natural selves. However, I think over the last ten years or so, we’ve become less stuck in the processed hair mode. More and more women have developed the confidence to embrace their natural hair.

 

Louanna

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Name: Louanna Martin

How long have you been natural? All but three years of my life when I was in high school.

Have you always loved your natural hair, or did you have to learn how to love it? I have always loved my hair. What products do you use for cleansing and styling your hair? Apple cider vinegar and shea butter.

What advice do you have for women who want to go natural? Do it! It’s you! You’re beautiful! The styling possibilities are endless and there is no need to visit the hairdresser if you don’t want to. Maintaining natural hair is economical!

Is there a natural hair scene in Trinidad, or do you feel like we have always embraced natural hair? I feel like we came to embrace natural hair influenced by the Black Power and Rastafarian movements.

 

 

Zakiya

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Name: Zakiya-Tuere Savary

How long have you been natural? I’ve been natural my entire life – 25 years and counting. The only thing I do to switch up is flat iron it once or twice a year.

Have you always loved your natural hair, or did you have to learn how to love it? I’ve always loved my hair, but I think I owe a huge deal of that to my aunt who combed my hair as a child. I didn’t really have any traumatic hair combing experiences. She treated it with love and respect and I’ve learned to do the same.

What products do you use for cleansing and styling your hair? I usually cleanse my hair with Head and Shoulders 2 in 1 shampoo, although it has sulfates in it I usually shampoo the scalp and let it run through the hair- as opposed to coating the entire strand with product. When it comes to styling I use argan oil most frequently. However depending on the style I’m going for I use some sort of leave-in or foaming mousse as well.

What advice do you have for women who want to go natural? Definitely be patient. My hair has a mind of its own and so I roll with the punches. If a product is working for you there is no need to change it to something that works for someone else. Everyone’s hair is different – maybe similar at times but not the same, so like with everything else in life don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

 Is there a natural hair scene in Trinidad, or do you feel like we have always embraced natural hair? I feel like both. There are people, like myself, who again because of my pleasant hair childhood experience, know natural hair as a way of life, an expression of self. However, on the other hand there are some newbies who for one reason or another are presently embracing their natural hair… Welcome! – especially if it’s more than just hair to you.

 

Elisha

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Name: elisha efua bartels

How long have you been natural? Always natural.

Have you always loved your natural hair, or did you have to learn how to love it? I always liked my natural hair, but also never care much what others think of my appearance so that might be part of why I never felt a need to conform. What products do you use for cleansing and styling your hair? Can’t say I style my hair except for occasional canerows (barely even twist locks, except for performances); I keep it simple: my shampoo was chosen (who knows what brand; organic-roots-someting-so?) because I swear it smells like West Indian cherries, so I use that plus matching conditioner, and coconut oil.

What advice do you have for women who want to go natural?: I’m useless for hair advice because I know nothing about hair, have never ever been to a professional, and do very little with mine except keep it clean and decorated because my beads bring me joy, but if pressed I wukkin with, “is hair, it go grow back…”

Is there a natural hair scene in Trinidad, or do you feel like we have always embraced natural hair? I think Trini’s natural hair scene has grown; some natural styles have been embraced longer than others but there seems little negative judgement for any of it these days once neatly maintained…now we see more than just patted-down afros, but dreadlocks and varied twists too, working in banks, customer service, law and government offices, etc…

 

Lisa

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Name: Lisa Beharry Gift

How long have you been natural? All my life, except for when it had a colour in it … does that count?

Have you always loved your natural hair, or did you have to learn how to love it? Yes – I’ve always loved it and learned to manage and style it on my own from very young which made it more fun for me. But at times I did wish I could do more things with it, like curly or wavy styles. But because it’s so light, it blows away with the wind.

What products do you use for cleansing and styling your hair? I use very basic products – shampoo and conditioner twice a week, a moisturizer, and hairspray and/or mousse sometimes when styling. Occasionally i use apple cider vinegar before washing as an additional cleanser.

What advice do you have for women who want to go natural? If you want to go natural, go natural. and just like with any hair styling, maintenance for natural hair is just as important so you have to learn what is appropriate for you and stick with a routine. Also, just be you and embrace you and live you. No one else can be you as well as you can be you. So why hide behind all the glamour and trends and filters and unnaturalness? As long as you can show acceptance and confidence in what you have, trust that everyone else will.

Is there a natural hair scene in Trinidad, or do you feel like we have always embraced natural hair? I feel like I’m seeing it more and more within the last couple years. Previously there was a lot of focus on chemical treatments or extensions or whatever have you. But now women are opting for natural hair more and more. From my observation, they go for shorter and shorter lengths and eventually cut to a length that allows them to start over from scratch sans chemicals. But in between some may apply some treatments I guess to keep the healthiness, or thickness or what not. But yes I feel like natural hair is trending now more than before.

 

Joanna

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Name: Joanna Charles-Francis

How long have you been natural? I’ve been wearing my natural hair for 2 years.

Have you always loved your natural hair, or did you have to learn how to love it? It’s not a question of whether I love it or not; it was a question of manageability….now that I can, I’m loving it.

What products do you use for cleansing and styling your hair? I use Tresemme Shampoo Colour protection, Tresemme Platinum Strength Conditioning Treatment, Shea Moisture Restorative Conditioner, BB Growth Oil, Coconut Oil and Beautiful Textures Leave-in Conditioner.

What advice do you have for women who want to go natural? If you had enough of ABUSING your hair, I say go natural. If you are truly comfortable with wearing your naturally tight curls…a raw image of you, I say go natural. If you don’t care about comments like ‘you look rough’/‘all the softness in your facial features gone’/ ‘go comb that nappy hair nah’, I say go natural. If you can defy and disregard ‘Western ‘ standards and the interpretation of ‘good hair/ bad hair’ I say go natural. There is enough information: tutorials for combing, grooming , styling and treatment of natural hair out there that is suitable for you….I say go natural. Is there a natural hair scene in Trinidad, or do you feel like we have always embraced natural hair? No…we have not always embraced it. it has been on a down low for some time. For a woman to go natural it always came across as defiant and radical. I think women for the past decade (at least that is when I took notice) have become more comfortable with themselves, they feel liberated, they feel emboldened. Women have come into a consciousness of what their image should represent and a display of natural hair helps in representing SELF. YOUR HAIR IS YOUR GLORY.

 

Katherine

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Name: Katherine Carrera

How long have you been natural? I’ve been natural for four years.

Have you always loved your natural hair, or did you have to learn how to love it? Always loved it!

What products do you use for cleansing and styling your hair? The entire Creme of Nature Straight From Eden Line.

What advice do you have for women who want to go natural? Research, Research, Research!

Is there a natural hair scene in Trinidad, or do you feel like we have always embraced natural hair? We’ve always embraced it

Details about Kate’s hair: Well I began texlaxing my hair 4 years ago when I started learning healthy hair practices. It’s called texlaxing because it’s the same procedure of a texturizer however, instead of using a texturizer I’m using a relaxer. I do no not leave the relaxer in my hair for more than 10mins and this includes applying the product and waiting times. I use the Creme of Nature Straight from Eden line because there are more natural ingredients than other relaxers and I do this procedure only twice a year.

Thank you to Sonja and the Continuum Dance Project for sharing their truth and beauty. Click here to visit their Facebook page, and click here to support Sonja’s latest project, a documentary about our alma mater — 100 Years of Bishop Anstey High School!

 

COMMENTS

xyzwgb says:
December 12, 2016, 5:45 am
not trying to be a natural hair nazi or anything but texlaxed hair isn't natural a terturizer is a mild relaxer it still breaks the bonds in your hair and changes your hair texture .... anyways all the women have beautiful hair either way
afrobella says:
December 12, 2016, 7:43 am
xyzwgb you're not being a natural hair nazi at all. I didn't want to edit out any of the ladies who have straight or straightened hair, because they were submitted to me as a group. They all do have beautiful hair and inspiring perspectives, so I shared without editing anyone. Thanks for reading!
pets says:
December 12, 2016, 9:19 am
Wonderful to see our Trinbagonian ladies and some are fellow Hilarians (Bishop Anstey High School, Port of Spain) like Afrobella and myself. Thanks for this.
SanTars says:
December 12, 2016, 10:05 am
Such a beautiful group of women! "It's not a question of whether I love it or not; it was a question of manageability." There is so much power and freedom in this revelation. I look forward to reading more of this series. I love it!!
ife says:
December 13, 2016, 12:51 am
It is so lovely to see so many lifelong naturals in your post, they all have beautiful hair and I am glad to see our curly hair in so many different shapes and forms! I always used to get ridiculed for my hair as a young girl. Knowing that my parents would never allow me to relax my hair I knew I had to just "take" the mocking, jokes and questions of "when are you going to straighten your hair??". Imagine that at 8 and 9 years old and even younger girls are already conditioned to change who they are fundamentally meant to be. The natural hair movement has had many of my past schoolmates reaching out to me for advice on their hair. Luckily I am always happy to help 'em out :-) Thanks for a great post, I'm definitely looking forward to more! Big up Trinidad, I'm out here missing home!
Selena Cochran says:
December 29, 2016, 1:09 pm
Love, love, love to hear my "cousins" speak. Talk about beauty inside and out! Looking forward to reading more in this series.

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