Wash Day by Tomesha Faxio

Honourable Mention – Personal

Wash Day is an ongoing project that documents the relationship Black women have with their hair. ­Created by US-based Tomesha Faxio, who gave up her career as a lawyer to become a photographer in 2019, it refers to a term “used to describe the time set aside to wash, condition, detangle and style natural hair”.

“For centuries, Black women have been told that our natural hair, the way it grows from the scalp, isn’t quite right. Unprofessional. Unpretty. Unbecoming. Un … white,” explains Faxio. “For Black women growing up in the 80s and 90s, it was pretty common that our mothers chemically straightened our hair at an early age. Afros and other deeply textured styles weren’t considered ­attractive back then. However, from around 2006-09, there was a massive ‘return to natural’ movement.

“Many Black women began to embrace their natural hair. For many, this required that we learn how to care for our natural hair for the very first time. Many of us also had to learn how to love the very same hair that we had been told for so long needed to be altered in order to be beautiful. And now, this knowledge and love is being passed on to our daughters.

“Most women I know who have returned to natural have refused to chemically straighten their own children’s hair. Rather, they have been passing on their relatively new hair knowledge to their children, as well as teaching them to celebrate and love their natural hair. There is a story embedded into every kink, curl and wave, and I want to capture this story through photography.”

In addition to documenting Black natural hair and how attitudes within the Black community have changed, Faxio also hopes that the series will be educational for those outside it. “I have come to realise that limited knowledge exists outside of our community as it pertains to how we care for our hair,” she says. “This series offers a visual means to bridge this gap.”