A new book celebrates the traditions and indelible connections made on ‘Wash Day’

Documentary photographer Tomesha Faxio captures the beauty of “wash day” in a collection that elevates a weekly routine into a treasured ritual.

Among beauty rituals shared by Black women worldwide, “wash day” may be among the most common. A day dedicated to caring for the curls, coils, locs and other styles many of us wear as our natural and chosen crowns, wash day is both an organic form of self-care and a treasured practice shared across generations.

This is the dynamic photographer Tomesha Faxio captures in “Wash Day: Passing on the Legacy, Rituals, and Love of Natural Hair to the Next Generation,” an arresting and intimate collection of photographs and essays celebrating this time-honored, yet often underappreciated cultural touchstone. Based on the critically acclaimed 2021 documentary photo series of the same name, Faxio turns her lens on 26 families, elevating the mundane into the sacred while challenging us to consider the ways we care for and share our natural textures as activism, in and of itself.   

As described in a press release to theGrio:

“‘Wash Day’ celebrates the bonds formed between Black mothers and daughters through gorgeous photographs of their hair care rituals and insightful stories that detail their unique natural hair journeys. … Through these stories, we learn how some mothers prioritize their children’s comfort to teach them that their hair is not difficult or burdensome, while other mothers simply encourage their daughters to love their big hair, even when they themselves find it hard to love their own. No matter where they are in their journey, each mother featured in ‘Wash Day’ is actively undoing generations of internalized hatred of natural hair, showing how this ritual can be both an act of self-love and a practice in resistance.”

Penguin Random House

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As Faxio and her subjects confront texturism, self-image and beauty standards, instilling cultural pride, a deeply affirming narrative emerges. Published as the CROWN Act is increasingly passed in states across the nation, “Wash Day” is billed as “the first photography book to document and celebrate the wash day ritual,” a visual testimony against the longstanding and systemic hair discrimination only recently brought to public consciousness.  

Especially timely as Mother’s Day approaches, at its core, “Wash Day” is a tribute to the wisdom and sense of self often passed from mother to child to the community at large, reminding us that we do indeed get it from our mamas.