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2. Katarra LaRae Peterson

 
My tabougie is an act of protest.
 
 
 

Shot by Krishna Tunica-El

 
 

Like, for real, I’m dead-ass serious. Historically, Black women have been expected to serve, to sacrifice, to give without limits, to defer to patriarchy, to shrink, to acquiesce.

It is 20-shine-teen. Damn. All. Of. That.

My tabougie prioritizes me and my well-being over anything, everything, and everyone else. Period. We’re only pouring into others out of full vessels ‘round here. I claim that right.

So much of living tabougie is setting firm boundaries selfishly and without guilt. It is hard work. Women’s social conditioning does not encourage this kind of behavior.

 
 
Many of my ancestors did not have the legal right to safely say “NO.” I say it every chance I get. Just for them.
 

In addition to setting boundaries and prioritizing myself, my tabougie also seeks as much pleasure, enjoyment and peace as possible, every second of every minute of every day.

I think of the many discomforts that my ancestors endured, and the many passions that they never lived to pursue.

Comparatively, living and working as an Artist grants me unthinkable amounts of autonomy. Not only is the work that I do of my choosing, but I am also blessed to love my work a great deal.

The lifestyle that I lead was long fought for and hard-earned. It is privileged. I’m spending it all.

 

Now of course, with great privilege comes great responsibility. Tabougie shows up in a major way in my most recent performance work, aptly titled “Uppity.” During performances, I take up space in galleries braiding hundreds of feet of synthetic hair in homage to the women who have sustained themselves, their families and their communities by braiding and styling hair. Such a simple act, but so many layers of meaning. Hair purportedly holds memory. Hair factors into identity politics, respectability politics and perceived employability. Braiding was one of few practices that Africans were allowed to retain upon enslavement in the Americas.

 
 
 
Maps braided into slaves’ hair led to freedom. Hair braiding has literally saved Black lives, so I’m humbly braiding the longest rescue rope I can.
 
 
 
It is not enough to stand on the shoulders of giants if I’m not gonna pull my people up.
 

Lastly, tabougie applies to my work in the way that I’ve migrated away from paintings that assert themselves as traditional “Fine Art,” a.k.a. art of the white, male, western canon. I use braiding to engage Outsider Art in the Southern Black tradition, including practices like quilting that have pejoratively been considered “craft.”

 

Presenting a kanekalon braid as capital-F Fine Art is highkey tabougie.

 

My assertion of and insistence upon braiding’s belonging and validity in a creative context underscores the validity of Outsider Art across the board, as well as the creative validity of fellow women who braid, or otherwise sustain themselves via the hustle.

 

These women are masters. They are artists. They leave me in awe. I love us for real.

All Peace, KLP

 
 
 

 

Katarra LaRae Peterson

gram: @katarralaraepeterson