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The misery and splendor of African poetry in Quebec

The misery and splendor of African poetry in Quebec

Turns out, styling curly hair is a real headache in Quebec. The science of this thin and versatile hair is not taught in any public school, even though nearly half a million Quebecers have this scalp type. A more comprehensive reform of DEP in hairdressing should see the light of day soon. Until then, hairdressers struggle to control their heritage.

At her salon in Quebec, Mwamini Ntabio has seen all kinds of hair problems hit her chair. From shaggy hairstyles to painful braids. “It's so dangerous that it plays on people's heads. Some say: 'I'm shaving everything off!'”

Very few salons outside of Montreal comb these frizzy locks. Professional studies training hardly treats “very curly” hair. There are still a few specialized salons, where anyone can become a hairdresser in Quebec: here, the government does not require any licensing from hairdressers, unlike Ontario or France. By watching others older than them do things, many, like Mwamini, learned their skills. “Before, it was the aunt who took care of it to survive. Today, young people want the best,” she says.

The previous hairdressing training was updated over 20 years ago. Its rewrite will not be completed this year, according to the people involved who were interviewed duty ; It will arrive at best in 2025.

Some private courses – online or in English – offer refresher courses. Sis Elusma, nicknamed Miss Lady Blue, is among the pioneers of these parallel schools. The shortage of black stylists “is a problem everywhere,” she says at her salon in Montreal. Self-taught and trained “in Haitian dolls,” she perfected her art in Atlanta. “We're barely touching on” the Afro style here, according to her. “It requires a different approach, an international approach.”

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A gradation of gradations

Salvatore Falci, a hairdresser with 28 years of experience, is participating in his third edition of the programme. After watching the content of the next part, he found it “really encouraging”. The art of very curly hair will be discussed. The lack of proper hair care is “very glaring” in Montreal, confirms this former teacher at the Pointe de L'Ile School Service Centre.

He is now a teacher in the district, at the June 24 Center in Sherbrooke, and he senses growing anxiety throughout the district. He combs his new students' assets and notices that between the very curly African hair and the very straight Asian hair, a whole range of curls need to be covered in the new course. “Everyone will be there.” In any case, teachers have already begun to “broaden a little” to enrich their lessons. He stresses that expectations are high within the profession. “We are open to new technologies. We're going to have a good time! »

However, straight hair is still the norm in Quebec. Without a critical mass of black clients in many cities or towns, many hairstylists are reluctant to detangle African hair due to lack of practice. “People with afro hair go to afro salons. “There seems to be no mixture,” says Stephane Roy, president of the Quebec Coiffure Association and a salon owner in Montreal's Ahontsic district.

“A person with very curly hair obviously wants to look good and has all the odds on his side.”

Curly hair legacy

In Quebec, “if there could be a training institution for [les cheveux afros]“It will be full,” says Mwamini Ntabio. Passionate about this poetry, she created a temporary exhibition on it in the national capital.

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Being so preoccupied with simple hair care, many members of the black communities insist on maintaining excessive caution at the expense of style, which the young hairstylist disapproves of. “We often do the same braids because we protect the hair. We've been doing this forever.”

Bantu, vanilla or layered braids: African hair offers so much potential, she says, without forgetting hair extensions and dyes. But don't ask this natural hair activist to smooth out super curly hair.

She stresses that “just doing a modern hairstyle means losing heritage.” “We have a part of our heritage that we do not dare to try. When others try hairstyles, we get angry and start screaming. But we allow [ces coiffures] in the closet ! It's because of smooth people trying to revert certain patterns. »

Winter and hats certainly complicate 3D fantasies, although “you can have a winter hairstyle and a summer hairstyle.”

Whether trained or not, hairdressers have been working professionally with African hair since at least 1870 in Quebec. John Williams, an African American, opened a saloon that year in Montcalm's headquarters, the oldest domestic building in the capital.

This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, with funding from the Government of Canada.

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