Project Naptural is an initiative for education, connection, and the overall empowerment of Black women with naptural hair. New data that supports the health risks chemical relaxers may have on Black women like fibroid tumors and alopecia. Secondary research (historical, scientific, psychological, sociological, and anthropological implications) along with primary research (interviews, observations, focus groups, surveys, etc.), has found the need for information about the many aspects of caring for Black naptural hair to be necessary. The project consists of a connective system in which this free knowledge may exists and empower Black women in both a physical space (The Nap Network 1.0: The Art Exhibition) and coming soon to a cyber space (The Nap Network 2.0: The Mobile Application).
The Emotional Refugee Experience
After the civil war and the emancipation of Black people, the divide between Black folks grew even larger due to identifiers like skin color, hair texture, and education level. As more and more Blacks were freed, a refugee-type experience took place. The emotional refugee experience, a phrase coined by O’Neil & Tobolewska in Global Refugees, Ethno-mimesis and the Transformative Role of Art. The experience is defined in four phases which Black people have and continue to experience today.
My Natural Hair Journey
Each individual has their own hair experiences, opinions, and ways of doing which can be found in a large ecosystem that affects or ripples into the next, often times without realization of the instances affect on others (or even yourself in the future). The ecological systems theory, developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner, also called the development in context or human ecology theory, is defined as a procedure that “identifies five environmental systems with which an individual interacts.” This theory provides the framework for the study the relationships and affecting factors..
Project Naptural Exhibit & Symposium
After speaking and receiving opinions from over 200 Black women about their natural hair experiences, Project Naptural launched in January 2016 with an exhibition that celebrated the beauty and versatility of natural hair. I illustrated these posters with elements of anonymity, same skin tone, no facial features, feathers and leaves as hair texture, in hopes that every Black woman could see themselves in the illustrations. I added the title of the hairstyle, including quotes from my interviewees, and data which I complied after interviews, focus groups, surveys, and graffiti walls.
Project Naptural Mobile App
The Project Naptural app will essentially take the elements of the physical space and bring it right to the user’s phone. In the Natural Hair Community, there are certain hair products that are considered staples (conditioner, oil, water, etc.) and my hope is to create another hair staple for the Black woman. The app works by allowing the user to self-identify their hair texture, length, occupation, age, the time allotted for hair care, any coloring, etc., and then disseminate information that fits their hair type and routine. They can also hair journal, length check, and find natural hair meetups close to them.
Project Naptural Workshops
The Project Naptural Workshops (6 total) consist of tutorials, discussions, journaling, & product-making for kinky and curly haired female-identified folks. Workshops are free, however, registration is required and participants must be residents of the Minnesota Northland Area, identify as female, and have (or legally guard a youth with) naturally curly and/or kinky hair. Project Naptural is an educational, grant supported, academic design research and cultural study about the social implications of natural hair and its effects on Black women.
The workshops are held at the Duluth Public Library and include the following topics:
- “The Roots” Foundations of Natural Hair
- “HAIRitage” Historical Contexts of Natural Hair
- “Strands In, Stand Out” Braiding Styles & Protective Styling
- “I’m Me & I’m Proud” Learning to Love Your Natural Hair
- “Food for the ‘Kitchen’” Using & Making Natural Products
- “Naptural Living” Living Naptural & Empowered