The art of black hair celebrated in Nottingham exhibition

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The expressive art behind black hair styles is being celebrated at a Nottingham exhibition. A review by Rachel Mlota for Notts.tv.

The collection of portraits and items used to create styles is is on display at the New Art Exchange, Hyson Green.

Called the Art of Black Hair, it is being run in partnership with the National Caribbean Heritage Museum, and includes a series of intimate photographic portraits of black hair styles.

Catherine Ross, the museum director, said: “Art isn’t the profession some would think of when it comes to the African and Caribbean community.

“Instead perhaps running, music and fashion may come to mind. But art is very much something that is part of our culture and it can be done in different ways.

“In terms of history and where we are at the moment, we are very fortunate because when black people first came to England, we had to do our hair in our own homes. It wasn’t until about late 1970s that we started to have black salons.

“But now, which is the exciting part of history, we find that even European salons can also style black hair as well. We’re now mainstream but we are still an artful people and most people still choose to do their own hair at home in front of a mirror or with friends by making it a social occasion.”

Another advocate for embracing black hair is Angela Small, the founder of Conscious Vibes, a magazine encouraging African and Caribbean women to celebrate their natural hair.

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“In the 70s it was considered more as a political statement to have natural hair but that is no longer the case,” she said.

“Instead, it is because people are tired of their scalp being burnt and their hair quality deteriorating after using chemicals to permanently make their afro hair straight.”

In an attempt to mirror the European straight hair, some black women changed their styles by using two main methods; relaxing and straightening.

Using chemicals to alter black hair is known as relaxing, but it can lead to hair can becoming thin and weak.

Ms Small is promoting natural hair to more people by giving talks in cities up and down the country.

Conscious Vibes, she says, is presenting to young people an alternative view of beauty to teach black people how to look after their hair and understand how versatile natural hair is.

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