I use photography as a tool to extract and redefine the symbols of femininity. My practice centers itself on black female subjectivity, black beauty, and often uses the arrangements and gathering of objects to identify biographical and historical facets of womanhood.
– Nakeya Brown
What does your hair mean to you? As a symbol of beauty and femininity hair is closely tied to perceptions and definitions of societal beauty ideals but through the lens of Photographer Nakeya Brown hair becomes a means to explore not just the complexities of beauty politics but of race and gender. Like the female form has become a site of protest for many politically invested artist as a way to subvert existing narratives Brown’s work reflects the fact that hair is far from a mere attribute; it contains the possibility of deconstructing a continuos fetishization of Western beauty ideals and a possibility to understand how visual signifiers become defining for identity construction.
Her work is contemporary and her pastel colour plate distinctively belongs in the now but there is a historic aspect, a look back into the past in the reflection of how American beauty ideals influenced the experience of black women being deeply connected to the Civil Rights Movement and the black power movement. The topic is as relevant as ever as Black Lives Matters has become one our times’ most important movements and Brown’s work exemplifies how hair gives agency beyond symbols of femininity and beauty.
I utilise the illusions of the interior and domestic space as a site for construction and invention. Objects extend beyond their appearance to narrate a cultural relevance to black women’s bodies and lived experiences.
– Nakeya Brown
Her series The Refutation of Good Hair, Hair Stories Untold, and Facade Objects stages objects of significance in the way identity is constructed through hair as Brown denunciates beauty standards idealised in modern pop culture. Brown opens our eyes; through her work she unravels how we reproduce social structures through everyday acts and signifiers and how hair has the potential to express resistance on the road to empowerment.
Selected works, Nakeya Brown. All images are courtesy of Nakeya Brown
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