Raïssa Karama

b. 1997, Democratic Republic of Congo

From The Series Our Hair Is Beautiful, 2020
Archival ink print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag
Edition of 10

Text & image courtesy Aspire Art Auctions, South Africa
Raïssa Karama Rwizibuka is a photojournalist based in Bukavu, in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. This series was made during the first round of lockdowns in her country during the Covid-19 pandemic. When the salons were forced to close Karama observed women reconnecting with traditional hairstyles with natural hair being valued. 

“The beautiful and black Congolese ladies have made a big step in regaining their self-esteem and valuing African culture, especially in terms of their hairstyle. For many years Congolese women grew up with the perception that their hair was ‘not good enough’. Many women use chemical products to smooth or straighten their hair, often leaving their scalps burned – as the old saying goes ‘being beautiful requires suffering’. In recent years however, Congolese women began to take pride in their traditional braids again, and more and more of them are now braiding their hair and have stopped using dangerous skin lightening creams. My images explore the revival of Congolese culture, showing how we can use creativity and tradition to showcase natural hair as a symbol of pride and reclaiming ownership over our bodies, and that these traditions need to be preserved and passed on to the next generation,” says Karama.