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'Queen of braids' pays homage to canerows with photo exhibit

[Photo credit: Shani Crowe]

FOR CENTURIES, braids have been making women of colour feel powerful.

To highlight how braids continues to make black girls and women feel magical as well as the history of the intricately expressive hairstyle, artist, photographer and braider Shani Crowe decided to document her relationship with braids.

The exhibition at Brooklyn’s Museum Of Contemporary African Disporan Arts (MoCADA), appropriately titled, BRAIDS, features black and white images of black women, with convoluted hair braids that were reminiscent of crowns and royal headdresses.

“I really love the idea of making women that I know look regal, as regal as they are in real life,” Crowe, who has been dubbed 'Chicago’s hair braiding Queen,' told Fusion.


BRAID QUEEN: Shani Crowe

"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," Crowe continued.

"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."

She continued: "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 honour 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. I felt charged to make them tangible in a way where I could create an icon that honours my experience with braiding, my love for my clients and a celebration of black feminine beauty coiffeur in my own words, in my own images outside of magazines.”

With a deep appreciation for her culture and the royalty of her roots, Crowe uses her hair braiding techniques to honour her heritage and celebrate black beauty.

“I also want to show black people for the gods that they are. Not that just black people are gods, but I think everyone has a divine spark in them. I think that [divine spark is] not anywhere outside of yourself. Everyone has to start with the divine within and I really want to capture that with the braids that I do.”

View some more of Shani Crowe’s Braids exhibition below

[All braid photos by Shani Crowe]

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