Black Hair Future

04.15.2021

Kodwa I, Amsterdam is a 2017 gelatin silver print photograph by Zanele Muholi. It shows a dark-skinned Black woman wearing a cape made of what looks to be kanekalon braiding hair draped across her shoulders, and her head is adorned with a crimped kanekalon hairstyle forming a point at the top center of her head. This photograph was the jumping-off point for my idea of digitizing a poster I created about Black hair styling and what the future holds for it. I made connections between different Black hairstyles, such as braids and waves, and things like optical illusions and grids. As a Black woman who is always noticed by her hair, just as Angela Davis was in her prime years,1 I am constantly fascinated by the obsession people have with Black hair, and the industry and culture around Black hair from within the Black community.

The Instagram page I created for this idea, @blackhair.future, showcases a full spread with the poster I created, along with specific images of reference pulled from it and inspired by it. In the captions of some of the posts, I ask questions about the future possibilities of Black hair. In other captions, I use quotes from some of the class readings on hair and Afrofuturism, including Tanisha C. Ford's “Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul," Mark Dery’s “Black to the Future,” and Kobena Mercer’s “Black Hair Politics." As previously stated, this is a physical poster that speaks on futuristic aspects of Black hair, so I wanted to bring this poster to the digital world in an interesting way. Some of the specific reference points pulled from the poster as separate elements of the spread include photo comparisons of optical illusions and hairstyles, as well as an AI-generated barbershop poster I created.

Nailah Golden is a senior in Graphic Design at RISD, and developed this project for a 2021 course taught by Dr. Jane'a Johnson, Pan-African Aesthetics: Past, Present, Future.

  • 1. Ford, Tanisha C.. Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul. United States, University of North Carolina Press, 2015.