The African Hair Braiding salon is a transactional space where collaboration, cultural exchange, and image production take place.
This year-long project in collaboration with Recess Activities investigates braiding as a metaphor and rule-based framework for production. The act of braiding informs modes of making where juxtaposition, layering, and repetition produce a range of meanings.
The work is informed by growing collections of beauty supply objects, field recordings, Hair Braider business cards, scanned images, and reference texts.
When I am going to Cameroon, I am going to take you.No, take me!You are going to Cameroon?Just let me know.So something like this, but I don’t want it to meet at the back there. I want it to keep going up like that, so just going up like this, coming to the side. Or then I was also thinking, maybe if it comes up it can, maybe… let me draw another head. Ummm… It could go up up up up up and then this is just free.That’s free? That’s free. Okay!Yah. So it can go from the side up up up and this is just free.And then this one will be by the side. This one comes here like this?Yah, but we can also, we don’t have or do it like that. We could just do it like this or we can do it like that. Which one do you think is better?Ah, what you want is the best for you.You know how I was wearing my head wrap? I think I look better when on the top it is full, not when it is close to my head. I feel like my head looks too small like that. So, if there is something with volume on the top…So you want… and then?Then every… or like one ones. Just free in the front.Look at this. This is around the middle.Yah.…because of this part which is here, so that all comes like this in the front.You can plait, plait up to here, and then all the rest here free, just single ones.Okay, one one one, okay, then it is fine.Do you have beads?Huh?Yeah we have some beads.Can you put beads?YesYah, I will be happy.AlrightShe is like me.We want our funny styles!I am now undoing my hair with a pen. I’m like, I am at home.Which one’s do you have? Black and white ones.Black and white or clear or even just all white?All white!Yeah that would be nice!It is very African.Yes, Why not.Okay, I am just going to go get us some food and the I will drop the food off and then I’ll come back.Cool, Thanks Milli.How long do you think it is going to take?Hmmm, we have to wash, let’s say an hour.Yeah, it won’t take long.An hour.Okay I’m coming now nowMilli, those shoes are nice, are they the many shoes of that other shop? The many shoes of that other shop you had.Yes! Yes!I told you to look for something for me.What size are you?Ah, I don’t think you are carrying my size.It’s big it’s eeeeeh, size nine.eight, nine.Do you think I should do it free hand or I should do with extensions? What do you think is better?Extension will last more.Yeah?Yes.Will last more!With little extension, not much. Little extension, so that it looks like the hair. I say not much extension so that it look more…Like since you want the one one here, not very long, we just put little extension.Okay, yah, also my hair here is very very short. When I got braids it broke.Yaaaah.How much will it be?Eeeeeeeeeeh, everything with extension, one fifty.How long have you been in this space?In this space? Four years now.I have known Milli for almost three years.She has been coming every since she moved?Eh, Yes.You saw the hair I did for her?Nontsi Yes I like it. I like that photographer from Nigeria.She brought it and then I said, ‘Ah, it was so nice.’Yes, Ojeikere! I like the hairstyle. She also showed me a video that she shot with you. An interview for her project.I really like the interview for her project.That was about a year ago.Yah? Nice.So, how is your work? How is your work going? You were saying you are doing the same things as Milli?It’s fine! Yah, yah, is fine. This is some of my work. I have been collecting images from different photographers and making these different posters. I also make videos.I am a designer and I make book so my next book is about hair salons.Books?Books.You are a writer? You write?No, I am a graphic designer.It is nice.Yah, when I finish my next book I will send you a copy, because it’s on hair salons.Alright, hee hee.Is Milli going to Cameroon for her project or for something else?Yah Milli was telling me for her project. She said she needs to be on the ground to really see what is going on in West Africa concerning the hair, concerning the styles. So she was telling me Cameroon is one of the countries she will be seeing, so I said, Ah, you have to go there then. Let me be and invite so that you don’t need any hotel to stay there. I take you maybe hee hee hee, and then you don’t have, you don’t need, you just have somebody who is real to tell you the real things, not somebody who is fake because he knows this is a foreigner, let me exploit them, let me take advantage over them. No! A lot of people do things like that. But if you go together you will have the real!They won’t fake anything.Is that where you are from?From Cameroon?Oh nice.Yes!My hair is very dry.Yah.How often do you treat your hair? You need to… It is dry. You need to…I never do, I am very bad with my hair. What should I do?You need some steaming treatment once in a while.Hair treatment, you see, it is breaking.yah, no, my hair is very dry, I cover too much with the head wrap.Yah, but you have to, to , you have to steam it.Yeah?Come let’s wash this.Maybe you steam it before we plait if you like.It is breaking.If you want to do that you can do that. I have never had that done. I have never had that done. If you want to you can do.The thing is it is dry.It is not moist, you see, it is dry.Even the hair is natural but it is dry,It is not moist.She needs some treatment, some hair treatment before we plait.Okay.15 minutes, it will cost. 15 minutes, you see you hair is breaking.If it is okay for you?She can steam it…Let me take off my jacket.Yes, it’s fine.Hot!It is increasing the cost, that’s the treatment, the hair treatment.How muchForty.Fourteen?Forty.Forty! So in total what will that be?It will be one ninety.One ninety?So what are you putting in?Chlorestoral…It is a mixer of different things it is like like eggs, avocado…What is the brand? What is the brand?Cholesterol, Let me show you.Now you need to steam your hair. To make it stronger. For vitamin.But people make it naturally. But back home we used to do it traditionally because we couldn’t afford to buy this at the shop.What would do you put?We were using egg…We were using…pear…avocado, we call it pear. In west african we call avocado, quarter pear.Then we were using ehhh…There is this part that comes from the…from the cow.It has a name here because they sell it.This part that comes form the cow the people from north, they use it.So we used to mix it and then you put it in your hair over night, you put a plastic.In the morning you wash.Or if you want to be fast with it…You, you put the towel on it you put the plastic you put the towel.Just like now. you go under the dryer is you could not afford dryer we used to heat it.You boil water…You put the towel. You put on your hair, for maybe 30 minutes.Or, if it is very hot; because you know West Africa is really, sometimes it is really hot. The sun is very hot. you really feel it. It is hot! Sometimes you sit on the sun. It is hot.The sun is very hot. You really feel it.Its hot!Sometimes you sit on the sun, it is hot!And maybe one hour you wash it.Because the process at night is very slow,so at night it takes a slower time to…It is very nice you see.So what should I keep putting when I go back?You are going back to…? You are going back home?I live in the US I live in New York,Okay, go, you will treat it now.Well what do I, what should I do? I should go for cholesterol treatment when I am there?Yes, go for cholesterol. They do have another mayonnaise treatment.Yah, it comes from the US it is Organic products.Just go to the saloon they will treat it for you.But I know there it is very expensive, but if you go there they will treat it.Okay.You know me I keep my…How long will I stay underneath here?How long?For about ten minutes, ten minutes.Ten?Okay.Sorry, you have to eat in the hair saloon.Do you want water or juice?Water.I wasn’t sure, ummmm…I can’t tell you the last time I was under the dryer.I hate what people look like under a dryer.I must take a picture of you.Oh God!I brought my camera but it has a fixed lens.I know and it was so good.What did you end up getting? Hash brown?…and an Egg McMuffin?Egg McMuffin.Seems like all they had.How is it going?Fine.I think I want to…find some hair salons to tilethe next time I come home.To tile?The floor, with pattern.But I think I want to do maps,make maps with the patternMake maps with the pattern, coz with that… so right now what I have been doing is that there are the modules that I combine to make whatever patterns. But the origins of that is an illustrator brush. I can draw any line and populate it with the braid and I am redrawing it so that it has the highlights so it is not lying so flat so that if you are looking at a braid there is all the different tones, so I have redrawn it so that there is the white, so it feels more three dimensional, it feels more organic.So I want to do topographical images, you know.Using that motif?Topographical maps they have the rings the concentric rings they show you the hills and valleys and stuff like that .So I want the rings to be the shapes to be, those lines to be braids.Think about like map of Cameroon map of what map of what.How would you, if you could do it here how would you do it?If I do it with like the more topographical think I would have to plan it out according to the space because then it is not the same as the series of tiles when I have the two modules and then I can just lay the out however.What’s is wrong with doing that?Just using those two modules? Yah, I could, I could.I feel l need to do another version of them I am not exactly happy with them yet.Where are those tiles now?Where are they? In New York?In storage or on a floor,No, just on a shelf in my apartmentbut I could easily reproduce them here they are just screen printed.I am also talking to someone to do them in ceramic so it doesn’t come off, like to do it with glaze on ceramic tiles.You could sell those.People keep telling me.You should. You really should.You will be my agent in Africa.My wall paper and my tiles.Zakani is also making wall paper…The lady who does the bags is making wall paper with those colors and Ndebele wall paper.That is so nice.She is producing the wall paper here?I would love to talk to her about production.…well I think she is going to collaborate with, like a homeward store.Morning 0.I think we are in West Africa. Morning O!Morning 0.You do the morning and then you put the small…Ooo!…connection!Why?It’s like that, it is something like a dialogue like a translation or dialogue. So like I say something,if you just say; Morning!it is a bit aggressive.Morning O!Morning O!Then you are giving them the occasion to say somethingHmmm, to say something back.That is so interesting.It is nice.But you are right.You see, Morning!How do see it?It is dry.Yeah. Morning!It’s like the person is boring you.Morning O… So you are telling the person, lets continue the conversation.I didn’t know that is why…No, I am just thinking about it.It is me thinking that way.I don’t try to compare it.But I see that maybe, probably if you look at the… you will see that definitely thats why…Just look at it!Morning, morning! It is like, let us bring a stop.Why are you calling me, it is like Europeans,Morning! Morning!Go your way, I go my way.Morning O!You are inviting that person for a conversation.I am now going to say Morning O!But it is true.How is the drama at your house?