Grooming and hair have long been an integral part of various African cultures for centuries, often bearing significance related to status and beauty.
The art of barbering and hairdressing can often be seen as an intimate relationship between the client and beauty professional where the importance of aesthetics and identity are stressed through this transformative interaction between the two.
It is only fitting then, that with so much pride being attached to both the role of the barber or hairdresser and that of the individual being attended to that the name of Nigerian photographer Andrew Esiebo's exploration of West African barbershops be appropriately named Pride.
Traveling to various countries in West Africa such as Liberia, Mali and Senegal, Eseibo tries to understand the social importance of barbers, barbershops (which he calls “public intimate spaces”), and the clients and communities that they serve and are situated in, finding many similarities along the way.
"Barbers help people to gain an identity…The way they look, through their hairstyle, influences the way they feel about themselves, the way people see them and address them…barbershops are not only a place for cutting your hair but a space where people meet, where they come to relax and discuss issues; a space where relationships are built, business deals are sealed and where intimate subjects are often discussed." - Andrew Esiebo
(source via freegratuits)
Combs from Tanzania
Top: Wood comb, 20th century
2nd row: Swahili comb, 20th century
3rd row: Shambaa comb, 20th century
Bottom: Bone comb, 19th century
Hair and grooming have always played an important role in the culture of Africa and the African Diaspora. The traditional African comb or pick has played a crucial role in the creation, maintenance, and decoration of hair-styles for both men and women.
In many African societies, ancient and modern, the hair comb symbolises status, group affiliation, and religious beliefs, and is encoded with ritual properties. The handles of combs are decorated with objects of status, such as the headrest, human figures, and motifs that reference nature and the traditional spiritual world.
In the twentieth century ‘afro’ combs have taken on a wider political and cultural message, perhaps most notably in the form of the ‘black fist’ comb that references the Black power salute.
By looking at archaeological records of burials, and through recording oral histories in modern societies it is hoped the project will provide a much better understanding of the status of this iconic object and the spiritual and societal status it can hold. This project aims to trace the history and the meaning of the African hair comb over a period of 5500 years in Africa, through to its re-emergence amongst the Diaspora in the Americas, Britain and the Caribbean.
This exhibition looks so awesome, with some of the oldest Afro combs (from ancient Egypt about 6000 years ago) and modern takes on the combs, all from diverse communities in Africa and the African Diaspora.
It is on at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (England).
Barber shaving a boys head and man with water-pipe, by Felix Bonfils. ca. 1870s.
J.D. Okhai Ojeikere
Hair threading in Lagos, Nigeria.
The intricacies of braided hairstyles captured by Malian photographer Youssouf Sogodogo.