By Zhanhui Jiang, BA Social Anthropology
COARSE: The Edges of Black Ingenuity is a virtual exhibition that aims to explore the meaning of hair beyond the realm of the cosmetic. Through photographs, Jawara, the artist behind this exhibition, interprets Black hair culture as a space of simultaneous vulnerability and freedom.
In this exhibition, hair is the medium. ‘It encompasses the vastness of spiritual, social, cultural and historical realms that intersect with crucial conversations regarding gender, class and race,’ Jawara states. In the photographs, hair conveys narratives. It defines the contextual moment in which hair not only expresses the personal, it is also symbolic and manifests the social. ‘I feel like the hairstyle is telling a story of the person,’ fashion communication student Lei said.
‘At COARSE, hair is the focus and pivot point of narrative; however, COARSE remains more a great celebration of Black culture rather than the negation of existing narratives.’
Jawara intends to transform hair as a space of torment and renegotiate the status quo. ‘Hair is also a performative space,’ he states. Indeed, hair is sculptural at COARSE, it expresses. At COARSE, hair is the focus and pivot point of narrative; however, COARSE remains more a great celebration of Black culture rather than the negation of existing narratives. It lacks the disclosure of alternative realities.
‘It’s just a bit strange the way women are represented here’ Lei said. ‘Men can just be themselves with their own emotions there, but not women’. At COARSE, the faces of men with their emotions are often the only one component of the photograph. Viewers see men as ‘Men with their own expressions’. They act according to ‘themselves’. With women, however, their expressions are not just their own sentimentality. Here, women appear. They were always filmed within a certain sense of space where they were surveyed, women’s expressions and sentimentality were offered as the surveyed. COARSE ultimately reconfirms the narrative of females and femininity as the surveyed ‘other’.
Photo Caption: A look at female and male representation from Jawara’s virtual exhibition COARSE: The Edges of Black Ingenuity (Credit: Art Partner).