Monday, April 15, 2019

Appropriation or Appreciation??

Sarah, Vicki, Syd, Mara, Sophia

Early on in the trip we heard talk that previous students got their hair braided while in Bolgatanga. Having always wanted our hair braided with extensions we were excited about the opportunity but apprehensive due to the issues surrounding cultural appropriation in our society. 

We were worried about how we would be viewed as white women wearing an African hair style that is an essential aspect of their culture. 

After talking with our Ghanaian hosts it became clear that having our hair braided would be seen as an appreciation of their culture  by community members and that we would be welcomed at the salon. 

Our new friends....
So with this understanding we went to a braid salon down the street from our guest house in Bolgatanga to inquire about getting our hair done later in the week. We were warmly greeted by the staff who remembered Mara from her previous trip to Ghana 3 yeas ago. The staff made us feel so welcomed and eagerly showed us different styles to choose from. 

The staff noticed that both Sydney and I had blonde hair and that none of the extensions they had in stock would be a match for our light hair. To our surprise when we showed up on Sunday they had gone out and specially purchased blonde extensions for our hair. It was quite a long process from prepping the extensions, applying them into our hair and throughout our braids, to burning the tips of the fake hair and dunking our braids in hot water to “activate” and keep them in place. 

Everybody pitching in....

After this we added silver clips and silver string throughout our braids to add a bit more fun. Most of our group got braids ranging from a full head to a few braids on the side. The ladies in the salon loved sharing this large part of their culture with us all day long and even referred to this day as “Canada Day” for them. They appreciated our willingness to immerse ourselves in this experience while we listened and danced to cultural music played through a boombox. Everyone’s hair turned out wonderful and we are truly grateful for the experience. 

Elyse, Christie and Alyshia
Syd and Soph

By Sophia Gray and Sydney Schindel
4th Year BSN Student
UBC Okanagan


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  2. I'm glad to see that there were some critical analyses and intentional reflection around wearing this hair style as white folks. I hope this intentional reflection and mindfulness continues. It wasn't long ago when students electing to go on this trip used language like 'i know now what it feels like to be marginalized'. there's a lot of nuance that has been historically missed in the curicullum for folks going on this trip so i'm hoping that has changed at UBCO since I graduated..