In celebration of Black History Month, Detroit’s Norwest Gallery of Art is showcasing “HAIRarchy,” an ode to the creativity, experience and culture of black hair. The art exhibition features works that celebrate black hair’s past, present and future.
Walking in, guests are immediately welcomed with multiple afro wigs, braided hair installations, paintings, sculptures and more. Curator and artist Asia Hamilton says, “‘HAIRarchy’ is a salute to the creativity inside the black culture. Rooted in a complex history that continues to evolve, influence and redefine ideals of beauty.”
Hamilton has worked as a professional artist for over 20 years. With a degree in fine arts of photography from Columbia College Chicago, she’s worked for numerous publications and focuses on portraiture and textures. Hamilton’s father owned a salon in the David Whitney Building, so she’s been around and inspired by hair her whole life. She says, “I have had a multiple-choice hair journey, from straight hair to natural hair, to wigs to locs.”
For February and Norwest’s second anniversary, Hamilton says she “wanted to do something that spoke to the hair culture and all its glory from different parts of black culture.” The goal of the exhibition is to expand and deepen the conversation around black heritage.
“‘HAIRarchy’ is speaking to the black hair experience as an everyday ritual and not an act of controversy. Our hair not only shapes the way people see us – it shapes the way the world sees us.” The artists featured hail from South Africa, Dallas, Berlin, Chicago, Detroit and beyond, and include Hamilton, Sabrina Nelson, Tanya Morris, Lebohang Motaung, Bre’Ann White and others.
On Saturday, Feb. 15 Hamilton invited a few showcases to an artists’ talk, an open dialogue about what their black hair meant to them. They discussed different issues like how to normalize black hair in the mainstream and whether there was ever a time they felt their black hair betrayed them.
Sabrina Nelson, an artist for over 35 years says, “Our hair is the only hair with laws about how we can or can’t wear our hair. I have a post card by my desk saying, ‘Please accept me, signed your hair.’” Nicole Grant, hair stylist and wig sculptor, says, “If you love your hair, your hair will love you back.”
“HAIRarchy” runs through March 1. On Feb. 29, they’ll host another artists’ talk, during which guests will enjoy a screening of the Oscar-winning short film Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry.