by Odera Igbokwe
Black Crown is a series that I had a visceral urge to make. Too often as an artist I see works that lack lived experience and do not understand Black features, Black skin, or something as simple as hair naturally growing from our heads.
[Image description 1: A black and white ink drawing on paper by Odera Igbokwe. Titled Bantu Knots, the image shows a figure with their hair pulled into ten small buns. The shape of the figure’s face is loosely outlined and their facial features are undefined.]
With that continuous observation, I wanted to challenge myself by engaging and meditating on the aesthetics and formal qualities of Black hair.
Hair journeys for Black people are often complex and nuanced. Something that should be so simple, functional, and expressive, can require resilience, healing, and an understanding of systems of power that continue to marginalize.
[Image description 2: An artwork made with acrylics and white ink on paper by Odera Igbokwe. Titled Ichafu, the image shows a figure from the shoulders up, in profile, wearing a head wrap. The work is colourful, with purple, brown, pink, and green brush strokes, with white line detailing.]
I grew up enviously watching my sisters constantly getting their hair braided, especially during our yearly summer trips to Nigeria. My brother and I, however, did not have the same gendered expectations of upkeep or range of styling. At an early age, the barbershop was such an anxiety inducing space. Haircuts were limited to what would draw the least amount of attention to yourself. Additionally, there was a performance of masculinity in that space that truly highlighted my otherness—weirdness—queerness.
It wouldn’t be until my early 20s that I started to visually reflect my identity. I saw hair as a potential expression of self and wanted to interrogate the way in which identity, presentation, and expression collided.
The Black Crown collection is a reclamation of power in that sense—a lookbook of all the styles young Odera would be ecstatic to try.
[Image description 3: An artwork made with acrylics, ink, and coloured pencil on paper by Odera Igbokwe. Titled Waves, the image shows the outline of a face in profile, with a short wavy hairstyle, surrounded by vibrant blue brush strokes.]
In creating the Black Crown collection, I hope to create an access point to healing and celebration.
Crowns can be seen as a symbol of authority, but I encourage us to push past the obvious symbol of monarchy. Instead I want us to explore the spiritual and metaphorical aspects of crowns—especially in the context of our rich and resilient hair histories.
[Image description 4: A short time-lapse video showing a black and white work in progress in charcoal and ink. The artists hands work to define the image with a charcoal pencil, roughing out a figure in profile with a curly textured hairstyle.]
The Black Crown Collection
Launched October, 28, 2020
View or shop the collection at https://www.odera.net/
Images and video courtesy of the artist:
pg. 2 | Odera Igbokwe, detail of Bantu Knots, 2020
pg. 4 | Odera Igbokwe, Ichafu, 2020
pg. 7 | Odera Igbokwe, detail of Waves, 2020
pg. 9 | Odera Igbokwe, process video from Black Crown, 2020
This post was made possible through a donation of $250 from Project Society. The author was paid $250 for their work. To support haunt texts with a donation, please direct message @hauntprojects or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org