According to the Yoruba people, Homo sapiens can be summed up in a phrase: “Eda, Omo Adarihurun”–humanity, the breed that grows beard mainly on the head.
As such, we are additionally the breed that gave bearing to the hairstyle, a berserk expressive, nonverbal accent that spans cultures and time to acquaint who and what we are.
Nowhere is this appetite to crew added spectacularly represented than in “Hair in African Art and Culture,” an exhibition of artifacts and photographs from acceptable and avant-garde African cultures that’s on affectation at the California African American Museum.
The abstraction for the exhibition originated with Frank Herreman, a self-described baldheaded Belgian art historian who in 1995 became the administrator of exhibitions at New York’s Museum for African Art. “Coming from Europe, which has a actual baby African population,” Herreman says, “one of the aboriginal things that addled me was sitting in the alms attractive at the African American kids and their admirable hairdos. I thought, why not accomplish a show?”
Herreman arrive art historian Roy Sieber to co-curate the exhibition, allotment masks and amount sculptures from beyond the African abstemious dating from the backward 19th aeon to the present day. The objects, which were primarily acclimated in religious ceremonies, affectation hairstyles with aerial sculpted ridges and continued looping braids that braid about the head. Despite the adequately abstruse estimation of the amount and face in best of them, the two curators point out the arresting accuracy of the hairstyles.
“African art is consistently alleged abstract, because the active and anatomy genitalia are too large, but the hairstyle and carving patterns are absolutely accurate,” explains Sieber, emeritus assistant at Indiana University and one of the aboriginal art historians to specialize in African art. “Everyone has a face, anxiety and hands. There is annihilation alone about them. In African art, what distinguishes a actuality at a assertive moment of their activity is hairstyle and scarification.”
The exhibition displays photographs taken by anthropologists alongside the acceptable sculptures, which proves Sieber’s point. For example, a alternation of four pictures of a Fanti woman, taken in the aboriginal allotment of the 20th aeon in Ghana, shows her beard actuality beggared and askance into two pigtails that shoot beeline into the air. The final appearance actual about matches a Fanti amount that’s additionally in the show. Similarly, in a brace of photographs assuming Pende or Mbala men, beard is adamant into aciculate crests, absolutely analogous the hairstyles of masks and hats from the aforementioned area.
The exhibition additionally delves into the way hairstyles in these African cultures announce cachet and age–with some bedraggled styles apropos to the priesthood and healers and added adorning styles pertaining to aristocratic status.
In adverse to scarification, which cannot be erased, Sieber credibility out, “in a accurate group, if you knew centralized traditions, you could watch the women go by and apperceive area they were in the activity cycle” by their alteration beard styles advertence puberty, for example, or the admission of menopause.
Despite its allegorical meanings, beard was additionally a agency of artful expression, accountable to the alive apprehension of fashion. Prized objects, such as anew accustomed tin cans in southern Africa, may be congenital into a crew to appearance aristocratic admission to the alfresco world, while a man or a woman may be called to a specific bearing by an anachronistic or contemporary hairstyle.