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textures exhibition on black hair

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KENT, Ohio — An exhibit at the Kent State University Museum examines the history and art of Black hair. Professors Tameka Ellington and Joseph Underwood worked together to curate the exhibit.


What You Need To Know

  • The exhibit at the Kent State University Museum was curated by Tameka Ellington and Joseph Underwood
  • The exhibit features 180 pieces of artifacts and artwork that represent Black hair
  • The exhibition runs through August 2022

​​”The exhibition actually came out of about 20 years of research that I have been doing over the years,” said Ellington, a co-curator of the exhibition.

The exhibit at the Kent State University Museum called “Textures: The History and Art of Black Hair” is broken into three categories for visitors to explore.

“Community and memory, hair politics, and Black joy,” said Ellington. “And the reason why we wanted to do that is because we wanted to get an opportunity to tell the vast story about Black hair and the complexity about Black hair. It was important for us to not just talk about the historical aspects of Black hair things such as, you know, related to what you would see in families or in overall Black communities but we wanted to talk about the struggles that Black people have.”

Each display is meant to raise important conversations about the acceptance of Black hair in western culture during a time when Black hair has become increasingly political. In 14 of 50 states, legislation is in place to protect people in the workplace from race-based hair discrimination. While Ohio is not one of those states, Akron, Columbus and Cincinnati have passed the legislation called the CROWN Act.

“If we are all voting citizens and civilly engaged we need to know about these topics even if it doesn’t affect our hair personally,” said Dr. Joseph Underwood a co-curator of the exhibition.

More than 180 pieces of artifacts and artworks are in the exhibit. Both Ellington and Underwood said that this exhibit is not just for Black people, but is a good opportunity for people of all races to learn more about Black hair, especially the care of Black hair.

“I think a lot of the misconception is that if you wear an afro or dreadlocks or something that it means you aren’t taking care of your hair. That it is unkempt or unprofessional whereas if you put gel in it and comb it over to the side like this it’s polished it’s clean,” said  Underwood.

Both curators said they hope the exhibit continues conversations surrounding Black hair and that one day Black people will be able to freely and confidently wear their hair however they choose.

“As Black women, Black men as well, you know we have to just get to a point where we’re not afraid to lose our jobs anymore. I think that’s been one of the biggest issues is that we want to be who we are naturally but on the back end we’re like ok well if I do that I’m going to lose my job. Once we get to a point where we’re not afraid to lose our jobs and we just go in and be who we are I don’t think that people will have a choice but to accept us for who we are,” said Ellington.

The exhibition runs through August 2022.​

 

 

 

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