Fiber Artist Deja Milany Reimagines Braiding Hair and Cornrowing

The artist says she’s committed to creating safe spaces - but also an escape - for Black people.

Deja Milany

Detroit-based artist Deja Milany explores Black history and celebrates Black hair through her fiber art. Her practice is inspired by her childhood, influenced by her mother, a cosmetologist who introduced her to hair shows, fashion shoots and the culture of the beauty salon. Milany studied fibers at the College for Creative Studies, where she pursued her interest in wearable art and fashion.

Her studies there led her to crafting hand-dyed hair wraps. For Milany, the custom-made wraps represented a personal touch in the midst of expanding fast fashion. “I’ve always loved the idea of creating something specific for a person, something unique for the person,” she says. Milany dyed the wraps in indigo as a natural alternative to synthetic dyes – and because of its link to West African textile traditions.

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Currently, Milany is continuing her studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Her recent work focuses not on the wraps, but instead reimagine the hair beneath. “I realized how much I love the craft of hair braiding,” she says. “I wanted to explore it outside of its normal form on the head.” She expands the possibility of Black hair, creating works by braiding hair on canvas or creating playful hanging installations. 

“I love creating safe spaces and spaces that are familiar, but are also portals and places for escapism for Black people.” One of Milany’s recent pieces is being featured in the exhibition Unraveled. Unstructured. Revealed. at the Trout Museum of Art in Appleton, Wisconsin. It’s just the beginning. She says, “I want to continue making space for us.” 

@dazzlindeja

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