KSU Museum Opens New Show Devoted to the Meaning of Black Hair

Fri 9/10-Sun 8/7/22

Thu 9/16 @ 6PM

Black hair has been a subject of admiration and controversy. Its care and styling has been a personal, aesthetic and political statement. In a white-dominated society where different hair textures are the norm, it has even been seen as threatening or rule-breaking. In the Black community, culture, politics and community social structures may revolve around neighborhood barber shops and beauty salons.

 For those who want to delve into the issues spawned by Black hair, the Kent State University Museum has a fascinating exhibit which just opened, titled TEXTURES: the history and art of Black hair. It’s described as “a landmark exploration of Black hair and its important, complex place in the history of African American life and culture.”

The show includes 180 paintings, sculptures, hair artifacts, photographs, advertisements, magazine covers and other media grouped around three themes:  Community & Memory, Hair Politics and Black Joy. It draws on the voices of artists, activists and barbers for input on what Black hair has signified historically and today.

The show was put together by co-curators/Kent State University professors Dr. Tameka Ellington and Dr. Joseph Underwood for the museum, drawing on new research to history, art, fashion and visual culture.

“I have been researching the phenomenon of Black hair since 2002,” says Ellington in the exhibition press release. “I have always been compelled to understand the disdain Black people had about their hair texture. I wanted to dive deeply into the root of that self-hate and try to offer a solution or means by which Black people can begin to heal.”

“The exhibition is ambitious in its scope, and we hope that it serves as a space where anyone, from any background, can ask questions, engage in a dialogue or just appreciate the incredible aesthetics of Black hair,” adds Underwood.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum will host a Zoom discussion on Thursday September 6 @ 6pm, called “A Cut Above: Barbershops and Belonging,” looking at the critical role barberships play in Black communities. Panelists include Devan Shimoyama, an artist in the show; celebrity barber Sincere Gilles; and Kadeem Woodson, owner of Enkel’s Barbershop in Brooklyn. Artist/KSU alum Simon Tatum moderates. Register here to get the link.

The Kent State University Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday @ 11am-5pm and Sunday noon-4pm. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for senior and $4 for ages 5-17.




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