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Putting the Essence of African Hair Braiding Salons Onstage

To playwright Jocelyn Bioh, the African hair braiders of Harlem are icons.

“They’re a large part of the economy of Harlem,” Bioh said of the Manhattan neighborhood. “Those are women-owned businesses, and for the most part led.”

Despite the ubiquity of the salons, most visible along 125th Street in Manhattan, Bioh saw little attention paid to the lives of braiders beyond their occupation.

Her play Jaja’s African Hair Braiding debuted a few miles away from Harlem,  at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, on Oct. 3. She described it as a love letter to the West African immigrant women who power these cultural institutions.

The 90-minute production replicates the dynamic hustle found in a typical salon day. Customers trickle in and out of the chairs, relaying distinct visions for their hair...READ MORE



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