Braiding Across a Pool

In 2014-15 during my Masters, I started to think about journeys. The journey that took me from Zimbabwe at age 4 to live in Scotland. The distance travelled and how I could depict this visually without a map.so I spent most of the year braiding hair across distances beginning with braiding every across a room in my flat.

 

Braiding is particularly significant for people of African descent on the continent and in the diaspora and we often use extensions to create extra length and elaborate styles.

 

Accompanying my photographic series Mashavi and Djinn at my Masters’ show was Braiding Across a Room: Braiding Across a Room was shot on a go-pro camera to provide a point of view documentation of the process of braiding. The braid was 10 metres long, the span of the room that my show was in and it took me around 1-2 hours to complete. The video documentation was displayed with minimal editing and with a timer showing the full duration of the performance.

 

The braid created a meridian line that divided the room in half with two pieces from my Mashavi series on either side of the braided partition. I had been looking at W.E.B Dubois’s notion of Double consciousness.

 

Double Consciousness is a theory that speaks about the psychological effects of living in the Western world as a person of African heritage. The constant oppression felt by the descendants of slavery and colonialism in the West and how this splits the psyche into two distinct aspects. One aspect is always attempting to assimilate into white structures while the other aspect is acutely aware that it does not belong to and cannot be served by these structures and is always resisting assimilation. The following quote comes from his famous book ‘The Souls of Black Folks’:

 

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity”

This is not a state of existence that any of us can ever overcome. This is the reason why it creates so much psychological and by extension physical harm.

In April 2018 I produced a live performance piece titled Braiding Across a Pool and was a direct reference and development of my original Braiding Across A Room piece. I braided across a 22 metre long swimming pool and completed the final 3 or so metres during the opening of the Yon Afro Collective group exhibition at Govanhill baths for Glasgow International Festival 2018.

 

I could never have created the braid alone. As you can see in the photos documented by photographer IK Ujomu (@ik_ujphotography) , I was assisted by fellow Yon Afro member and exhibitor Adebusola Ramsay (@soulfoodhaus). Braiding Across a Pool could not have been made without help from fellow Yon Afro members, Ima Jackson and Nabu White

 

I added a sound piece that hauntingly repeated the famous Solange Knowles lyrics ‘Don’t touch my hair’ which played in a continuous loop during the live performance and remained in the space for most of the duration of the exhibition.