Where hair and art collide

Artist unrecorded, Ghana, Passion Hair Cut Mandela (double sided barber poster), date unknown, paint on wooden panel, 80.5cm x 52cm. Standard Bank African Art Collection (Wits Art Museum).
Artist unrecorded, Ghana, Passion Hair Cut Mandela (double sided barber poster), date unknown, paint on wooden panel, 80.5cm x 52cm. Standard Bank African Art Collection (Wits Art Museum).

It seems fitting that the exhibition Doing Hair: Hair and Art in Africa is running at the Wits Art Museum, right in the heart of Braamfontein with its abundance of hair salons. The museum hopes to draw new visitors and larger audiences with the exhibit, which explores the political, socio-economic and cultural nuances of hair, particularly black people’s hair.

In an interview with the Citizen shortly after the exhibition opened Anitra Nettleton described hair as something that “carries a whole cultural heritage”.

“The minute that you run a comb through your hair it becomes a cultural object,” she said.

Black hair makes a political statement, even when that is not the intention. The exhibition makes an honest attempt to illustrate this but one has to ask whether it has done so in an Afrocentric way.

WAM Hair 5
Artist unrecorded, Diplomatic, date unknown, paint on wooden panel,122cm x 61cm. Standard Bank African Art Collection (Wits Art Museum).
WAM Hair 7
Artist unrecorded, Ghana, Gentel boy – Extra O, date unknown, paint on wooden panel, 61.2 cm x 122cm. Standard Bank African Art Collection (Wits Art Museum).
Artist unrecorded, Barber Sign, date unknown, paint on wooden panel, 60.9cm x 87.3cm. Standard Bank African Art Collection (Wits Art Museum).
Artist unrecorded, Barber Sign, date unknown, paint on wooden panel, 60.9cm x 87.3cm. Standard Bank African Art Collection (Wits Art Museum).
O.A. Heavy.J and Teshie, Accra, Ghana, ODK Hair Cut Cristiano Ronaldo, date unknown, paint on wooden panel, 45.5cm x 91cm.Standard Bank African Art Collection (Wits Art Museum).
O.A. Heavy.J and Teshie, Accra, Ghana, ODK Hair Cut Cristiano Ronaldo, date unknown, paint on wooden panel, 45.5cm x 91cm.Standard Bank African Art Collection (Wits Art Museum).

The Wits Art Museum is open 10am to 4pm from Wednesday until Sunday. Entrance is free. The exhibition runs until 2 November

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