Since the 15th century, particular hairstyles have reflected various tribes throughout Africa, while being used as a sign of status within communities. Women of the Yoruba tribe wore a distinct style called, ‘Irun Kiko’, translated to “hair knotting with thread”. These looks -loud and extravagant- symbolise an embrace of femininity and a declaration of cultural pride.

The ‘Irun Kiko’ photo series serves as an investigation into the politics and psychological habitus of West African women and their hair. This collection, explores particular influences -social, cultural, economic- that have contributed to the symbolism of West African hair statements. By looking into the historical ideologies that surround this topic, I present modern renditions of traditional hairstyles once used as a form of cultural identification.

In contemporary society, West African hairstyles -braids, dreadlocks and afros- can be seen throughout popular culture as both political and fashion statements. This renewed appreciation by people of colour, for natural hair styles has contributed to an increased visibility of black aesthetics worldwide. ‘Irun Kiko’ looks into ways in which these women either conform to, or rebel against Western ideals of beauty while reclaiming African heritage.  

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