Day 7 - Emma Dabiri

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It is hard to believe we are over half way through our #12FeministsofChristmas endeavour. We hope you have been enjoying learning about Sibéal's leading women as much as we have writing about them. Ireland prides itself on its traditions, particularly at Christmas. However, in between the banter and craic, Sibéal is not so impressed with some of our not so pleasant, long-standing traditions of racial discrimination. Ellen O'Sullivan highlights Emma Dabiri's experiences and efforts to eliminate racism. 

Ireland possesses an almost unbelievable talent for cognitive dissonance when it comes to addressing racism in this country. We, as a predominantly white nation, find it difficult to critically assess our role (both historical and contemporaneously) in perpetuating imperialist ideals concerning race and ethnicity, and continuously camouflage narratives of white supremacy as nationalistic survival. In recent years, that mythology has come under scrutiny, and while Ireland still has a LONG way to go, both the overt and insidious nature of Irish racism is slowly becoming a visible discourse. One particular proponent that has challenged those narratives and encouraged a reflexive interpretation of what it means to be both Irish and Black is the brilliant Emma Dabiri. Growing up in Dublin during the 1980s, Dabiri faced incessant racism and discrimination from a young age, and her writings reflect her experiences of such trauma. Dabiri is perhaps best known for her critically acclaimed book ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ , a seminal work which explores the history, importance, and ‘complex visual language’ (Ganatra, 2019) of natural hair for people and communities of African descent. Her work discusses gender as well as race, promoting an intersectional interrogation of the construction and performance of identity. Dabiri continued her exploration of Black identity and natural hair in her 2020 book Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture. I first came across Dabiri in an art context (once again), while watching the BBC’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, and her warmth and creative engagement made the show so much more enjoyable.


View the show on BBC iPlayer, and keep an eye out for her forthcoming book in 2021, What White People Can Do Next. In the meantime, follow her on Instagram @emmadabiri, or Twitter @EmmaDabiri References: Ganatra, Shilpa (2019) ‘



Emma Dabiri: I wouldn’t want my children to experience what I did in Ireland’, The Irish Times. Available at: