Black Hair: Art, Style, and Culture

Overview

From head to toe, no other physical attribute for a black woman is as culturally, socially, or politically charged as her hair. Black Hair celebrates the diversity and creativity of black women's hairstyles, from traditional and ceremonial styles to the urban twists and turns of modern styling. Collected stories, poetry, and non-fiction anecdotes pepper this pictorial look at the present and past of black women's crowning glory. Each page is lushly illustrated-from the vintage ads of America's first black female ...
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Overview

From head to toe, no other physical attribute for a black woman is as culturally, socially, or politically charged as her hair. Black Hair celebrates the diversity and creativity of black women's hairstyles, from traditional and ceremonial styles to the urban twists and turns of modern styling. Collected stories, poetry, and non-fiction anecdotes pepper this pictorial look at the present and past of black women's crowning glory. Each page is lushly illustrated-from the vintage ads of America's first black female millionaire and black haircare mogul Madame C.J. Walker to the recent campaigns of current haircare giants. In addition, top hairstylists to the stars provide insights into their creative work. Black Hair celebrates hair-from long or short to kinky or bone-straight. No other book is as graphic and beautifully styled as Black Hair, making it not only a wonderful personal keeper but a timeless gift.

Author Biography: Ima Ebong received her MA in art history from Brown University and served as exhibition coordinator at the Museum for Africa Art New York, where she co-curated several exhibitions including the groundbreaking Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art. She is contributor to Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art and Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Marketplace.

A'Lelia Bundles, the greatest granddaughter of hair-care mogul Madame C. J. Walker, is the author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madame C. J. Walker.

Julia Dash is the award-winning director and producer of the acclaimed film Daughters of the Dust.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789306241
  • Publisher: Universe Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/5/2001
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 7.56 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Foreword by A'Lelia Bundles

From the once ubiquitous Royal Crown Hair Dressing tin -- with its mildly odiferous scent and red, green and silver logo -- to the coral-adorned ceremonial coifs of the royal women of Benin, Ima Ebong's enticing harvest of images pulsates from the pages of Black Hair: Art, Style, and Culture. Each photograph, painting and poem serves up another delectable morsel in this visual and literary feast of black women and our kinky, cottony, coily, wooly, wavy, wiry, croquinoled, cornrowed, straight and straightened hair. Juxtaposing 19th Century African etchings of spiraled braids and bushy tendrils with the sky-soaring, ancestor-inspired hairstyles that currently crown the heads of black women from Los Angeles to London, Ebong confirms that the old eventually becomes the new. From the swirling strokes of artist Paul Goodnight's "Links and Lineage" -- in which a mother, daughter and grandmother bond through hair grooming -- to the high fashion photography of a series of 1950s Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company advertisements, she reminds us that our hair is art.

Through her eyes, our hair is also poetry, as in the words of Gwendolyn Brooks who captures both the sassiness of a 1940s upsweep "with humpteen baby curls" and the prideful strength of "rich rough right time" 1960s hair that shuns the curling iron. In these pages our hair becomes theater, too, breathed to life in George C. Wolfe's now-classic skit, "The Hairpiece," whose willful and warring wigs -- natural-haired Janine and chemically coifed Lawanda -- vie to be worn as their owner contemplates a break-up with a troublesome beau.

Having assembled the historical and cultural touchstones of our hair consciousness, Ebong moves a step farther, exposing the emotions that render one person's apolitical fashion choice another person's liberating political statement. "What's up with your perm, your locks, your blond extensions?" is likely these days to be answered with "Ain't nobody's business but my own what I do with my weave, my Goddess braids, my bottle of peroxide." From Patti LaBelle's towering hair sculptures to former Senator Carole Moseley Braun's regal braids to Mary J. Blige's golden tresses, we and our sisters improvise an aesthetic all our own.

With affection, honesty and humor, Ebong -- and the writers and artists whose offerings fill this anthology -- celebrate our journey to love our locks -- and ourselves -- from Africa to the Americas... and back.

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