Curated by Favour Ritaro

Untangling the racial politics of Black hair is indeed an ongoing task with a long history of discrimination, and reconciliation of cultural appropriations.

Hairitage is a group exhibition exploring the role of Black hair in Black and African American identity through the works of Black and African American artists, and the lens of Black students at the Pratt Institute campus, in New York. Through personal experiences, Black students at the Pratt Institute document their Black hair journey and how they deal with its complexities.

Historically, the politics of Black hair has deep roots in systems of oppression that have shaped the prejudicial treatment of Black people since the slavery era to present-day America. According to Johanna Lukate, a researcher and expert on the psychology of Black hair "For women of color, hairstyling- from chemically relaxing to covering your hair with a wig deliberately wearing it in an Afro- is about managing a marginalized identity."

Even though there was a sort of stigma that came with Black hair, it has always been seen as a symbol of a person's identity. In recent times, black women have been wearing their natural hair with pride and leading others to feel comfortable following their lead.

Inspired by a personal concern as an immigrant graduate student who just relocated from her home country to the United States, and a casual conversation with other Black and African American students at the Pratt Institute, New York of how they grapple with the maintenance of their hair, the exhibition titled Hair-itage takes a closer look at the history of Black hair in America and explores their hair journeys and experiences that forms their identity and their beliefs.

Artist 1's work centering on deeply resonant materials like indigo dye, soil hand-dug from plantations, and human Black hair collected throughout the diaspora investigates the complexities between land and memory in the American South.

Artist 2's body of work is a display of unique individuals and their natural crowns from all over Fort Worth. Created as a means for the artist to connect with individuals in her community, she celebrates all hairstyles, from twists, loc, and fros, to curls and waves. To the artist, Black hair gives room for intimacy between grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and sisters.

Artist 3 presented photographs that debunk the notion of 'good hair' and the narratives that come with it. She draws inspiration from hair rituals, materials, and traditions of Black women's periods.

In addition to the exhibition are photographs from selected Black and African American students of the Fine Arts department, Pratt Institute documenting their hair journey. Finally, a selection of interviews with the students, and some Black owned barber shops and hair salons on what Black hair means to them and their community will be played throughout the exhibition.

*The text above was submitted to apexart's 2023-24 INTL Open Call, and rated by over 700 jurors. Any specific artists mentioned are unconfirmed and subject to change.
Favour Ritaro is a Nigerian curator whose practice explores ideas that challenge and enhance our understanding of the past. Her curatorial purview critically views representations of personal and cultural identities, nationhood, gender.

apexart’s program supporters past and present include the National Endowment for the Arts, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Kettering Family Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, The Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Spencer Brownstone, the Kenneth A. Cowin Foundation, Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., William Talbott Hillman Foundation/Affirmation Arts Fund, the Fifth Floor Foundation, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, The Puffin Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and administered by LMCC, funds from NYSCA Electronic Media/Film in Partnership with Wave Farm: Media Arts Assistance Fund, with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.