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Film ID  ACE410
Title  Can I Touch It
Series  Black Arts Video Project
Date  1994
Director  Tanya Read
Production Company  Black Light
Synopsis  A partly dramatised examination, with animated sequences, of the origins and influences of black hair styling in Afro-Caribbean culture.
Minutes  12 min
Full synopsis  ACE410.2 (00:00:00 - 00:11:34)
The British Museum. Teacher leads group of young children round African sculpture exhibits. His rather boring presentation is interrupted by a statue coming to life and pointing to the “do not touch” sign. Female and male models on the catwalk; audience. VO “Fashion. Art. Politics. There’s more to our roots than we may realise.” Photograph of Madame C J Walker, America’s first black millionairess, who, in 1905, invented products to help hair-straightening; photographs of hairdressing salon. Man suffering while processing his hair; VO explains that black people were encouraged to look more like whites. Photographs of the Empire Windrush and black immigrants. Commentary says they influenced British fashion and many black hair businesses grew up in major cities. Couple visiting cinema showing I Passed for White (1960). Couple reading newspaper with headline reporting riots at 1976 Notting Hill Carnival; they and their friends all have afro hairstyles. Couple leaving cinema in 1993 are handed anti-racist leaflet. Photographs of ninth century bronze “head of Queen Mother of Benin” and hairstyles from different African cultures; man carving. Young men with decorative patterns clipped into their hair. Bronzes. Ivory carving of head with hairstyle depicting Portuguese traders. Images from classical Egypt showing ceremonial beards and elaborate wigs, etc. Little girl having her hair combed. VO says that many myths relating to hair care – such as cutting it at birth and death – see hair as linking material and spirit worlds. Mother burns girl’s shed hair in candle. Children in one Yoruba village who are born with lots of hair are considered symbols of prosperity; representation of story of Samson who regained his wisdom, strength and faith when his hair grew back, a belief reflected in Rastafarianism attitudes to hair. People (including Tanya Read) with locks. VO explains the term “dread”, and says that such hairstyles upset “the conformist establishment”. Dancers silhouetted in front of animated painted background. Commentary talks about “funky dread” as epitomising the hybrid culture of the 1980s. Barber cutting elaborate patterns into man’s hair. VO says such hair styles reflect the mixing of reggae, hip hop, jazz and funk, and marking a “crossover between black American and black British cultures”. DJ and people in club; two men discuss a young woman who rejects their advances and talks to her girlfriends about hair. DJ introduces Taiwo Ogunnaike who performs a poem about hair under the credits. Actor in costume says “To weave – or not to weave. That is the question.”

Full credits  Written, Directed and Produced by Tanya Read; Producer Alex Jackson; Script Editor & Assistant Director Desiree Reynolds; Editor & Associate Producer Lol Gellor; Lighting Camera Kelvin Richards; Sound Jude Andrews; Technician Jonathan Harris; Additional Camera Tasim Persaud, Gary Knight; Additional Sound Souleyman Garcia, Alan Kingsley; Dubbing Engineer Alex Turner; Production Advisor Johan Insanally; Production Supervisor Juliet McKoen; Production Assistants Karl Jackson, Darren Johnson, Tracey Whittington, Tasim Persaud, Daphne Thorpe, Maxine Bailey; Music Compiled by Othman Read; Animation Tanya Read; Make Up Jo Bull. Cast: Doreen Blackstock, Leo Chester, Tony Gully, Cassi Poole, David Forest, Q, Stephen Jackson, Taiwo Ogunnaike, Tanya Read, Ejay Ikonneh, Eduardo Perreira, Jacqui Read, Clemency Nyaga-Otto, Lorrayne Johnson, Allison Mason, Rashida Husani Ajoa Ishe, Othman Read, Karl Jackson, Chris Garcia, Martin Fahey, Sandie Dowling, Oluwatoyin Akisanya. Thanks to British Museum, Rio Cinema, Monseigneurs Hair Salon, A.H.B.E.X., Afrodizziac Hair Awards, Battersea Park, Floods Wine Bar, Cultural Partnerships Ltd., Hammerhead Television, AVS Television, London Video Access, Clockhouse Productions Ltd., Peak Productions, Loophole Films, Len James Electricals, The Walker Collection of A’Lelia Bundles, Institute of Race Relations, British Newspaper Library, Black Cultural Archives, Lambeth Archives, Flashbacks, Trendco, Wig Bizarre, Laurence Corner, Bachaka, M&M Products, Hackney Empire. Special Thanks to Doreene Blackstock, Steve Radnall, Yve N’Goo, Lorna Jackson, Ian Costello, Michael Jackson, Natasha Henry, Jo Pierre, Guillermo Alarcon, Joy Russell, Inge Blackman, Rob Churchill, Dominic Ren, Hugo, Lucy Smith, Ebbie Agbeze, Charles Rubinstein, Shola Odeleye, Sojahse, Chris Garcia, Cleve Jackson, Chris Charles, Carole Stewart, Kiman. A Black Light Production. Produced with financial assistance from the Arts Council of Great Britain. © Black Light 1994.
Watch segments  ACE410.2 (00:00:00 - 00:11:34)
Watch movie 

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