One thing that is easy to notice on TV is that there’s an intricable connection between hair and financial standing; straight, artificial hair usually means wealth and affluence while natural hair, mainly black, is associated with unsophistication. Anyone remotely resembling upper financial class will have his/her hair reflecting it as does those of lower financial class.
We’ve all seen many instances of these in our televisions throughout the years and there’s little to suggest things might change anytime soon.
The following examples are studies from 2 of SAs most popular soapies; herein we analyse the role of hair and how much impact and influence it has on shaping a character for a certain role.
Connie Ferguson who played “Karabo Moroka” on Generations, her character is that of a successful, powerful woman. Throughout the years her character has exclusively worn weaves, it could be considered a separate incident if similar patterns weren’t prevalent throughout our television screens.
Linda Sokhulu who plays Nikiwe Sibeko on Isidingo, a role similar to Karabo; that of a successful matriarch. Nikiwe, almost exclusively without fail has worn a weave for the entire period of her character.
In contrast, Zukiswa, who came from the rural Eastern Cape as a maid and her hair was pivotal in accentuating her financial position. According to the character she plays, she improves from being a typical domestic worker to someone who has improved her standard of living her hair changed from having her natural (afro) African hair to having weaves on.
With all these three examples, hair, whether artificial or not, is central to the representation and structural image of black women on television. While this representation may not be absolute, the repeated patterns of the same narrative contribute into shaping public perception and ultimately classification through hair.