Laetitia Ky, an artist and designer based mostly within the Ivory Coast, has been utilizing hair as a artistic technique of expression since childhood. In her forthcoming guide, Love and Justice with Princeton Architectural Press, she recounts how as a woman she refashioned the white Barbie dolls that have been accessible to her by reducing their hair and with a needle and thread, changing it with extra braidable hair that resembled her personal.
These early impulses would reemerge in maturity when her want to reconcile the photographs of magnificence promoted by Western society together with her personal reflection. Love and Justice, a mixture of artwork guide and memoir, makes use of images and storytelling to showcase Ky’s intricate hair sculptures constructed utilizing her personal hair, extensions, wool, wire, and thread. By way of her social media accounts, the place she has amassed greater than 6 million followers mixed, Ky makes use of her hair sculptures to deal with and create conversations round sex-based and racial oppression of African girls, dangerous magnificence requirements, psychological well being stigmas, and extra.
Ky credit her exploration of the web pure hair neighborhood with sparking her curiosity in experimenting together with her hair.
“Someday, a type of accounts posted a photograph album of the hairstyles African girls have been sporting earlier than colonization and I felt impressed,” she informed Hyperallergic in an interview. “They have been lovely sculptures and shapes embellished with gold, pearls, shells. I used to be impressed and felt the necessity to experiment with my very own hair.”
Her first hair sculpture, Ky stated, was a three-foot-tall piece standing excessive on prime of her head.
“I posted it on my Fb and all my family and friends have been impressed,” she stated. “I obtained a number of encouragement and it made me proceed.”
As her follow developed, Ky’s hair sculptures grew to become extra elaborate. “Each time I used to be posting, I used to be obtained extra likes, feedback, and shares till the day the place one among my picture collection went viral,” she stated. “I formed my hair as a pair of arms and created a dozen photographs of these arms doing totally different actions.”
Whereas they started as purely aesthetic experiments, the suggestions Ky obtained from different Black girls impacted and knowledgeable the path her work would take. Ky stated she started receiving messages from girls everywhere in the world telling her that her social media posts have been serving to them fight damaging messaging about Black girls’s magnificence. This led her to the belief that the work she was making was inherently political and impressed her to be bolder and extra direct together with her hair sculptures.
Ky sees her function as a continental African feminist as integral to her work and the problems she addresses in her hair sculptures. She cites the clashes African feminists typically have with Western feminists round notions of gender and sex-based violence as one other supply for her sculpture’s topics.
“The expertise of African girls could be very totally different from the expertise of Western girls,” the artist stated. “Right here we contemplate our oppression sex-based due to the genitals mutilations, the robust interval stigma, the breast flattening, the robust obstetrics violence, the shortage of schooling for women, the compelled marriage of little women and so many different experiences we have now due to our physique and biology.”
“This angle triggered and continues to trigger a number of clashes with Western feminists who take the oppression of girls with the gender side,” Ky continued. “It’s one thing I can respect however I don’t relate to. As an African artist and feminist, I’ve the responsibility to be loud about our perspective that’s means too usually silenced and forgotten.”
Lots of the sculptures in Love and Justice tackle the actual relationship African girls should intercourse and gender through pictures and sculptures that tackle obstetric violence, breast flattening, and feminine genital mutilation. Ky hopes via her continued experimentation to display the limitless capability of Black hair, and by extension Black individuals, to rework, problem, and transmute the established order.