'HAIRarchy,' a Detroit art exhibit, celebrates hair within the black community

Posted at 4:56 PM, Feb 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-13 19:26:40-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It’s Black History Month and today we’re exploring a part of black history that we might not always talk about and that’s the uniqueness of black hair. There is an art exhibit open that touches on that topic. It’s called HAIRarchy and it’s at the Norwest Gallery of Art on Grand River.

“This exhibit is a celebration of the versatility in our hair,” said photographer Asia Hamilton.

You will first notice a black cloud of hair.

“The cloud that hangs over our head when it comes to us wearing our natural hair,” Hamilton said. “We’ve been taught that our natural state of hair is not the way that we should be looking.”

The photographer combs through this topic from the perspective of someone who may have been judged by their natural hair.

“There are so many layers to it and it needs to be talked about,” Hamilton said.

That’s what HAIRarchy does. From a projector that shows off photos sent by every day folks to pictures, paintings and tools. Hamilton’s late father was a hair dresser and she displayed his tools, representing all that is needed to style hair.

Some parts of the exhibit touch on the deep rooted controversy of black hair.

Last year, California became the first state to ban racial discrimination based off one’s natural hair. Recently, a Texas student was suspended from school for having locks.

“When we are wearing our natural hair, we are discriminated against,” Hamilton explained. “It’s serious when it comes to laws having to be passed. It’s serious when it comes to having to be accepted. It’s serious when we have to uphold a certain beauty standard.”

She explained why it’s not called “dreadlocks.” She rocked that look for 20 years.

“Dreadlocks, the dreaded locks. Don’t call them dreadlocks, that’s one thing, don’t randomly touch my hair,” she said.

Hamilton added that it is important to see natural hair in the mainstream media. On Sunday, the short film "Hair Love" won an Oscar for best animated short. And with this exhibit, Hamilton is hoping folks will walk away untangling the issues surrounding black hair and instead will head in a positive direction.

“Keep the compliments, fabulous,” she said.

The exhibit is on display from Feb. 8 to 29 at Norwest Gallery, 19556 Grand River Ave. The exhibit will also feature works by Sabrina Nelson, Tanya Morris, Lebohang Motaung, Daja Milany, Stacie Monday, Asia Hamilton, and many more.

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