Miss Rizos Salon: Natural Hair & Sustainable Interior Design
About half a year ago Carolina, one of my closest friends here in the DR, asked me if I could help her out with a project for which she had just raised funds through Kickstarter: the design of a sustainable interior for a natural hair salon she was going to open a few weeks later.
As Miss Rizos (Spanish for “Miss Curls”), Carolina has been advocating natural hair and women empowerment for several years and now the time had come to finally open up a place that would allow her to take her efforts (and dreams) to the next level.
While opening a natural hair salon might not sound like it should be such a big thing, it in fact is a HUGE thing here in the DR: despite the fact that the majority of the population (which is largely mixed after all) would have curly hair if they’d allow it to be, wearing you hair ‘natural’ (i.e. afro’s, curls, or whatever other way nature intended it to be) is still highly stigmatized. People are discriminated for having their curls out – or for finding ways to ‘contain’ them, for example by wearing hair in cornrows – on a regular basis.
I have experienced this discrimination first hand on many occasions: friends of mine with curly hair won’t be allowed in bars or restaurants, get paid less at work, and are insulted on a regular basis with comments like “so how do you take care of the fleas with hair like that?”. No shit (in fact that last comment was thrown at Carolina as we were buying some materials for the interior design work at her new salon).
This discrimination is a result of many societal, cultural, historical developments; all of which seem to have resulted in a sad tendency of Dominicans to largely deny their afro-ancestry while celebrating aesthetics (and anything else really) that is modelled after European or Caucasian looks. The result: 99% of Dominican women all wear their hair perfectly straightened; often the result of using chemicals that are a serious threat to their health.
But back to this project: with plenty of pent-up energy (I had just spent the majority of several weeks working on the Haiti Moringa Study) and some free time I went to work with carpenter and now friend Eddison Reyes. Together with him and the help of a few other friends we spent a few days in beast mode to try and get everything ready for the opening of the salon a few days later.
Since there was essentially no budget we had to get creative: we literally started off with nothing more than two (!) pallets. These two pallets served as the basis for the salon’s counter, which we would make almost entirely out of reclaimed wood. Then we sourced some more materials: lots of pallet wood and a bunch of other reclaimed stuff helped us build some cupboards, tables, foot rests and more.
With the opening scheduled only a few days later we had to go in full on beast mode. But with the help of some friends we did it.
For the first time Dominican women now have place that not only offers them awesome natural hair care, but that also serves as a space to get together, exchange experiences and find strength and encouragement in a community. In the meantime, Edison and I found a way to showcase some of our work. In fact, several people have inquired if we can work for them as well.
It goes to show that there are many ways to make a difference. And that volunteering or helping a friend with something can actually pay itself back in unexpected ways.
That’s all for now, I’ll share some “how-to” articles on the items we made from reclaimed wood later.
I am Chris, a certified permaculture designer, sustainable development professional and DIYer. I like to grow, inside and out. I’m interested in growing positive impact and finding solutions that go beyond sustainable.
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