Do you have natural hair? Would you like to participate in a portraiture project celebrating black women and men, and drawing attention to racism?
This is a project both about celebrating black women and men, as well exploring the issue of racism. In particular I want to focus on natural hair. When I was little I used to *love* and be so jealous of natural hair and afros. I have always loved it – but as I got older and less naive, I gradually realised what a politicised thing natural hair is, which makes me sad. Recently I was looking for models for a fashion shoot, and it was so hard to find any women of colour – let alone with natural hair – I was so shocked. (Again – naive of me…)
As an artist who works with photography, I decided I wanted to do a project. I want to create pairs of portraits of a person – simple head and shoulder shots. One will be a beautiful classic dignified portrait celebrating black women and men with natural hair. In the other I will ask the sitters to wear a black mask (in other respects the shot will be exactly the same). The masked portrait intends to illustrate racism, showing that when certain people see natural hair, it is like they just see a symbol for blackness – and a sort of blackness that they are afraid of. Racism and xenophobia are often underpinned by fear, I think – particularly fear of difference. Subconsciously they are dehumanising men and women of colour – and it is this dehumanisation that racism engenders that will be illustrated by the mask.
So – in short – the idea is a pair of portraits of each person – one showing how they are dehumanised by racism, and the other showing the beauty and dignity of the real person.
I am in Milton Keynes, which is 40 mins from Euston on the train, or 45 mins drive from Oxford or Cambridge.
You can see some examples of my portraiture here