Our Hairstory

At the Africa Center Hong Kong, one of our main missions is to Black Consciousness. We understand that this is a vast and versatile mission that needs to be tackled in stages. Hence, we are seeking to briefly address the forgotten and/or neglected wealth, depth and versatility of African hair here.

We hope to highlight the rich hairstory that is imbedded in the hair of people of African descent. This encompasses the arts, varying technologies and an immense amount of skill.

Image by Shani Crowe: The Breadth We All Share

When we look at afro textured hair, we see intricate styles that are plated on or across the scalp. We see works of art carried on a head sometimes with the incorporation of adornments like shells and beads. Many times too we see the enhancement of afro textured hair through wool or hair extensions that bring new shapes to life on the heads of black people. Even the supposedly simple style of the Afro, is a work of art that not everyone can execute.

Image of Asahti warriors (Ghana) early 20th century

Black people have a rich hairstory which encompasses hairstyles that were used as means of protection by for example hiding gold and messages in plated hair; hair that was plated to show a map or communicate messages to those who knew what to look for; or the carrying of certain hairstyles as political statements, such as the Afro’s of the black panthers and the rastas of the Rastafarians.

Why is black hair so political?

We at the Africa Center understand that hair has always been a social experience that in caring for it but also in the styles that a person may choose to carry that can tell us many things about the person. However, for people with Afro-textured hair especially, this experience has unfortunately become deeply political too through years of colonialism and imperialism that deigned afro textured hair as undesirable.

For this reason we think that it is of importance to share our hairstory not only with foreigners but also amongst ourselves as we have often been denied access to this hairstory.

More Information

On sharing more about our heritage and recording our histories:
Prof. Jette G. Hansen Edwards is looking for speakers of African languages in Hong Kong for a project on language diversity. If you are interested in joining the project, please email her at jhansen@cuhk.edu.hk. Interested speakers would be audio recorded reading aloud simple words and sentences as well as responding to questions about their language. It would take around 1 hour and you would be paid 100HKD in cash for your time. Parts of the recorded data would be shared publicly on a website on linguistic diversity (names and other identifying information would be withheld).

Click here for more information on Prof.Hansen Edwards’ research

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