To say Shani Crowe is talented would be an understatement.
The Chicago based artist recently debuted her show titled, Braids, which features 10 black-and-white photos of black women with stunning braided hairstyles all done by Crowe. The photos are stunning and remiscent of the work of late Nigerian photographer, J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere. The Howard University alum raised the money for the show with the help of 3Arts, a non-profit organization in Chicago that works to promote local artists.
Crowe, who has been braiding since she was 8-years-old told Fuse.net she was inspired to do this work to honor the roots of African hair braiding in the midst of appropriation within pop culture.
Braiding is a sacred art in a lot of ways because it’s so rich in tradition—a lot of times we don’t really understand how much it means. I’ve always done hair and there were times when [braids] weren’t really as popular and I didn’t do them as much, but [now] all these white girls are coming out wearing cornrows. Someone asked me, “Do you do boxer braids?” and I was like, “You mean box braids? What the hell are boxer braids?” And she was like, “Those braids that Kim Kardashian wears.” Kim Kardashian just has straight-back braids and they aren’t even done that well, they looked pretty popped, and popped in Chicago is not a good thing. Because [braids] are coming out in pop culture and being exploited as a trend in the fashion scene, I think it’s important for me to honor them, before there’s a time when people don’t even remember them as a traditional black art. Plenty of cultures do their own braid styling, but African braiding has its own very long chapter in the history of braiding.
Check out more work from this amazing exhibit.