This Problamatic Take on Anciet African Bantu Knots Raises Awareness of HIV in Latin American Communities

 The Sanchez-Kane Fall 2018 collection is modeled during Fashion Week in New York, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The Sanchez-Kane Fall 2018 collection is modeled during Fashion Week in New York, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Sánchez Cane, the esteemed, and brilliantly talented Mexican clothing brand came out with yet a new collection titled ARTESANAL SEX SHOP AW18 and it’s glorious. Peeks of nipples, ribbon, tools, whips, clasps, and freckles, peek out of beautifully layered with tailored looks in the way only Sanchez Cane can successfully pull off.

Yet scrolling through some epic looks, there is a hairstyle accompanying the looks that that the word “provocative” would be an understatement for. Created by hairstyles Timothy Peter Aylward and Aziza Rasulova, the models hair consists of the ancient African hairstyle from the Bantu tribe called Bantu knots—embellished with condoms. Yes, girl, condoms. Comments on their instagram feeds praise this look, but many comment are a various of “hahaha, look at the hair”.

As a black woman in Mexico, I craft my own knots, braids, and styles for my naturally nappy hair. I wear and celebrate these hairstyles with a sense of pride, honoring my ancestors who’ve worn their hair like this for thousands of years. The texture of black hair is magic. We can extend, straighten, curl and shape our locks without the use of heat, chemicals, or gels. And Bantu knots one of the most practical yet stylish ways to do so. But there was a time not too long ago when wearing these exact hairstyles were seen as unsuitable for work, school, or even leaving the house. Folks like me would be sent back home for looking inappropriate or “unkempt”.

 via The History of Bantu Knots

via The History of Bantu Knots

One wonders, then, what the creative process stems from when these white adjacent hairstylist created their interpretation of Bantu knots. Did they spend hours and hours researching this (new to them) cutting edge look? Or was it more like a “Bi*ch I got it! Condoms! Put 10 condoms on that Bjork hairstyle! Yass bi*ch, yass!” sort of creative birth?

Lest not forget that these two hairstylist exist in a fashion world where black women and hair are still oftentimes not styled, or even not casted for shows the industries lacks hairstylist skilled enough to do all hair types and textures. This should be an industry standard? But why isn’t it and Is this a subconscious symptom of the lingering white supremacy that still stunts Mexico?

But perhaps I’m all over the place with this. Maybe this look is portraying something deeper? Is it vocalizing the importance of safe sex in a country where condoms are almost double the price that they are in other western countries.

In 2015, nearly thirty-six teams from eleven institutes in Mumbai, India participated in a fashion show where traditional and modern dresses were designed from actual condoms. Too, in 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ten thousand male and female condoms were used in a fashion show promoting a positive approach condoms usage in a country where condoms are still seen as taboo. Then there’s the iconic R&B girl group TLC who early in their careers during the early 1990’s wore exclusively baggy oversized unisex looks adorned with condoms. The condoms were placed on clothing and accompanied by mission statements from the artist portraying methodical fun way to approach the very serious spread of AIDS that still ripples through communities today.

 Dario Garcia, who lives in Panama, volunteers to visit people who are HIV-positive to see whether they are taking their medications. Garcia himself is HIV-positive. "I feel alone," he says. "I believe the most support I have now is from others who have been diagnosed." Jacob McCleland for NPR

Dario Garcia, who lives in Panama, volunteers to visit people who are HIV-positive to see whether they are taking their medications. Garcia himself is HIV-positive. "I feel alone," he says. "I believe the most support I have now is from others who have been diagnosed." Jacob McCleland for NPR

One wonders, then, what the creative process stems from when these white adjacent hairstylist created their interpretation of Bantu knots. Did they spend hours and hours researching this (new to them) cutting edge look? Or was it more like a “Bi*ch I got it! Condoms! Put 10 condoms on that Bjork hairstyle! Yass bi*ch, yass!” sort of creative birth?

Lest not forget that these two hairstylist exist in a fashion world where black women and hair are still oftentimes not styled, or even not casted for shows the industries lacks hairstylist skilled enough to do all hair types and textures. This should be an industry standard? But why isn’t it and Is this a subconscious symptom of the lingering white supremacy that still stunts Mexico?

But perhaps I’m all over the place with this. Maybe this look is portraying something deeper? Is it vocalizing the importance of safe sex in a country where condoms are almost double the price that they are in other western countries.

In 2015, nearly thirty-six teams from eleven institutes in Mumbai, India participated in a fashion show where traditional and modern dresses were designed from actual condoms. Too, in 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ten thousand male and female condoms were used in a fashion show promoting a positive approach condoms usage in a country where condoms are still seen as taboo. Then there’s the iconic R&B girl group TLC who early in their careers during the early 1990’s wore exclusively baggy oversized unisex looks adorned with condoms. The condoms were placed on clothing and accompanied by mission statements from the artist portraying methodical fun way to approach the very serious spread of AIDS that still ripples through communities today.

The sad truth is that there is a growing HIV crisis amongst indigenous communities in countries like Panama, Costa Rica, Hounduous and other Latin American countries. Cesar Gantes MD., who works at a HIV clinic that services the native Ngabe people of Panama states that “the prevalence of HIV is six times higher than among the overall population of those countries.” And sometimes there are no pharmacies to buy condoms making it difficult entirely to use protection when you’re in the mood for love.

 Alan  Balthazar via  Vice

Alan  Balthazar via Vice

 

So what’s the takeaway, Mennlay? You’re all over the place and we need to streamline and come to a comprehensive closing paragraph. I write this close to the anniversary of my friend's death that took place last year in September. My friend, Alan passed away due to complications with HIV. 

The takeaway is for us to continue to have dialogue. Dialogue about why and what we borrow from other cultures to tell what kind of stories. Let’s examine, redefine, and do better.