(Dominican Republic)

Tubi or not tubi, 2021 – 2023, 00:03:23, HD, 16:9, MP4, Color, Stereo.

About the Work:

Tubi, dubi-dubi, or the toga: a hairstyle method used to straighten or stretch hair by securing it with pins (spikes) around the head and a hairnet (cap). The origin of Tubi is unknown, but it is believed to have been invented several decades ago to help shape hair, straighten it, and combat frizz or curling in countries with very humid climates.

Historically, in Dominican tradition, the Tubi was used exclusively in the privacy of one’s home. However, due to new designs of hairnets, more and more women (and also men) are seen using the Tubi in various public spaces of the city as if it were just another hairstyle. In everyday life, it is very common to encounter people wearing the Tubi while on public transport, shopping in supermarkets, at universities, stores, or walking on the streets without any hurry. In most cases, the Tubi is “protected” by a colorful scarf, a hairnet, or a handmade knitted cap. Dominican woman, who are mostly Black, mixed-race, or mulatto and tend to have very curly hair, use the Tubi to maintain straightened hair and make it last longer.

I grew up in a society where having curly hair meant one of two things: you either belonged to the “lower class” or simply looked unkempt or disheveled. Regardless, this style was frowned upon. I remember in my childhood how my father would always scold me for being “disheveled or unkempt.” But when my mother took me to the beauty salon and there straightened my hair, my father would always greet me with flattering words like: “you look so well-groomed,” and phrases of the sort. I also remember how in my childhood; they always kept my hair very short. According to them, it was because it was easier to comb and control the curls.

As a teenager, a friend introduced me to hair relaxing; since then, keeping my hair straight has been a strenuous task in my life. When you have curls, you must endure criticism, starting with self-criticism, and then endure the high temperatures of hair dryers and the pulls and tugs of hair by stylists in beauty salons. One thing was clear, and that was to always keep hair straight and combed according to the standards demanded by society.

Tubi or not Tubi is an art project that showcases how social prejudices oppress identity, focusing on analyzing and exposing the negative connotations that have been, and still are, assigned to curly hair in Dominican society.

Tubi or not Tubi is a video art piece created through photographs or still images at specific time intervals, to be projected by a projector or on a flat screen.

December 25th has been designated as “National Tubi Day.”