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“What Comb Do You Use?”: Documentary Tackles Race and Hair In Brazil

Categories: Latin America, Brazil, Arts & Culture, Citizen Media, Ethnicity & Race

“Rebellious”, “bad”, “like steel wool”: these are some of the pejorative terms are used to describe the hair of Brazil's Afro-descendants. Those who've been at the receiving end of racist comments like the above now have a chance to share their stories in a documentary called “Qual é o pente que penteia?” [1] [pt] (“What comb do you use?”).

A project by 25-year-old Ana Esperança, a cinema and video student at the Faculty of Arts in the state of Paraná (Fap/Unespar), the film aims to address racism. Those interested in taking part in the project can send their testimonials via e-mail [2], or by filling in the form on the project's web site [1] [pt].

Imagem do site pente que te penteia [1]

Screenshot from the “Qual é o pente que te penteia?” web site.

Ana, speaking with Global Voices by e-mail, said the idea of film, which is part of the requirement to finish one of her degree courses, arose from personal experience:

Since very little I was subjected to chemical [hair] treatments and I grew up with this idea that my hair was weird, that I was an ugly person. I spent a good part of my life without accepting my image very well (…) At the moment, I am proud to say that I am what I want to be and not what they told me I should be.

The film's title Qual é o pente que te penteia is taken from the title of a 1940s song composed by David Nasser and Rubens Soares and recorded by many renowned Brazilian artists, including Elis Regina [3] and Planet Hemp [4].

Also read: Afro-Brazilian Women, Tight Curly Hair and Black Consciousness [5], published on 20 November, 2012 on Global Voices.