Wash Day at the V & A

Wash Day at the V & A

Saturday 15 October was Wash Day at the V & A. I was intrigued, from 12-5pm they were celebrating Afro hair. I decided to go, but I wasn’t expecting a time warp and a connection to past. The first thing that I attended was the Afro Zine Making workshop with Karantema Anyimadu.

In this workshop we were taught how to make a mini zine focused on wash day. For clarity, for most Black women, wash day is an event (yes it can take the day if you go to a salon!). Wash day is a connection to community and family. It is an experience that almost every Black woman can connect with another one.

Afro Zine Workshop

Karantema encouraged us to think about what wash day meant to us. I recalled hours spent having my hair washed, steamed, conditioned. Then sat in rollers and dried. Then it was time to take the rollers out. Sitting in front of my mother as she moisturised my aching head, massaging the creme in, styling my hair (if we were going out), or leaving the rollers, wrapping my hair for me to sleep with them in. Washing a black woman’s hair can often mean dedicating 4 hours or so to the whole process or a day if you go to a typical hair salon.

I had forgotten the connection to wash day that was and is formed within the black community. The reflection recalled many happy (and frustrating) hours with my mother. Now that is she is no longer with us made the memory all the more poignant.

My next stop was with Stefanie Sey for a trichology consultation. Then queuing up to see hairdresser Uju Ozomba and Kids Hair Coach and Stylist Efayena Dorcas give demonstrations on methods of caring for black hair.

Uju Ozomba
Uju Ozomba

In the family space (which I didn’t have time to see), there was a showing of the CBBC documentary My Life: Hair at Home, space to chill, read books and opportunity to design your own colourful textile patterns inspired by the African Fashion exhibition at the Pattern Studio families display.

Throughout the day there was an exclusive playlist curated by Misery Party. MISERY is a mental health collective centring healing and joy for queer, transgender, non-binary and intersex Black people and people of colour.

Wash Day at the V & A

There were 4 films screenings (which again, I didn’t have time to see):

  • I am She by Bollo Brook Youth Centre Girls Group
  • Afro Hair Rituals by Amber Akaunu
  • Dear Afro by Amanda Bright
  • CABELO BEDJO by SumWeekly

There were 3 talks:

  • Hair as a work of art by Joy Matashi
  • Hair care and hair loss by Lorna Jones who is a qualified trichologist from the International Association of Trichologists and the only talk I was able to listen to:
  • A letter to my younger self: Charlotte Mensah in conversation with Afua Hirsch.
Afua Hirsch and Charlotte Mensah

This last talk was a ticketed affair, and we enjoyed a compelling reflection on Charlotte’s award-winning career in the world of natural hair care. She was expertly hosted by Afua who is a best selling author, broadcaster and writer known for her work on culture, social identity and anti-racism. This was a fun conversation which really resonated with the audience.

Wash Day at the V & A

Audience at A letter to my younger self: Charlotte Mensah in conversation with Afua Hirsch

What is clear is that a huge appetite for Black focused events, and whilst this was a fun and interesting afternoon – it would have been great to have had more time where immediate community experiences, which are soo indicative of the black experience could be shared and enjoyed more frequently.