Her’i strika

Until well into the 20th century clothing irons were used to straighten hair in Curaçao. In that period straight hair was the beauty ideal on the island. The techniques to straighten hair developed into hot combs and the use of chemical straightening methods that changed the basic structure of the hair. In the late 1960s, hairstyles changed as Curaçao’s population started to embrace a more natural beauty standard. Nowadays young Afro-Curaçaoan women like Nathifa Martina still face a personal journey regarding the expression of beauty and identity through hairstyles.

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2:27 min

"From what I heard people would heat the iron and literally iron their hair."

- Nathifa Martina

My name is Nathifa Martina. My object is an antique clothing iron. From what I heard – not that I have done it myself nor that my mother has done it – but I heard that as a matter of fact people used iron, they would heat it and literally iron their hair. Me I have never straightened my hair. When I was about 14 years old my mother told me that we could go do a treatment that I think was called wetlook and that is as far as I went. There are various other options but I didn’t do any of them. And then when you’re old enough to make your own decisions you choose what to do with your hair. A lot of people who have straightened their hair in the past get to the point where they make a conscious decisions to go for the big chop where they cut it all off and start all over again. And then you let your hair grow, the natural way. And you embrace who you are. You accept your hair and you accept your identity. Not that you didn’t before but this is really a process of identity.