For my current thesis work, I am investigating the ways in which hair can help to form our identities, socially, culturally, and in particular, racially. Primarily, I am concerned with the continued suppression of African hair in favour of a “whiter” look achieved through the use of weaves, wigs, extensions and straightening techniques. After a brief moment in the ’60’s and 70’s when the Afro came to symbolize pride in natural black hair characteristics, the “whitening” of our hairstyles has come back full-force, as evidenced by the straight (and sometimes even blonde) styles worn by black women in the public eye, from Michelle Obama to Beyoncé.
Having a background in jewellery, my first impulse was to use Victorian hair jewellery as a starting point for experimenting with hair as a craft medium. I made several hair brooches, using synthetic hair extensions to see how the fibres could be woven and braided into jewellery. The work then really came alive when I “performed” it, wearing the brooches with matching wigs. By having myself photographed in slightly silly and awkward poses, I am highlighting the ridiculous nature of contemporary beauty practices, while also playing with perceptions of race and identity.
Photos by Kristy Depper.