Smithsonian’s ‘The Will to Adorn’: black hair and cultural identity


Actress Viola Davis and her husband arrive on the red carpet for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

Ethnic beauty, hair health, hair mythologies and the art of hair adornment among black women and black men will be the focus of “Heads Up,” a program organized by the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum.


Example of a hairstyle worn in the African American community. (Courtesy of Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum)

“Heads Up” is part of “The Will to Adorn: African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity,” the Smithsonian’s larger ongoing cultural research project on folk life and heritage. “Will to Adorn,” which explores the history of dress, traditional art, hairstyles and body adornment in the African Diaspora, will present its findings at the 2013 Folklife Festival Program on the Mall.

“Historically, the name ‘The Will to Adorn’ came from the words of Zora Neale Hurston, who said one of the most important parts of African-American expressive culture was ‘the will to adorn,’ ” says N’Diaye, the program’s curator and principal researcher. “She was talking about words, but also about culture.”


Example of a pyramid hairstyle worn in the African American community. (Courtesy of Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum)

At the Anacostia museum, “we are going to be talking to people about their hair and how they adorn their heads. The overall project is about dress and adornment. The project ‘The Will to Adorn’ is about the Smithsonian's grand challenge to understand the American experiences,” she said.

Harris, a surgeon and scholar who runs the Center for Aesthetic Modernism in Chevy Chase, will discuss how beauty, health and identity are entangled. These are key components of his program called “The Do Good H.A.I.R. Project.” Harris maintains that mental and physical well-being are tied to identity and the need to reclaim ancestral memory. In his clinic, he works with women to embrace their cultural authentic beauty and “cultivate personal growth through hair growth.”


Example of a shaved head hairstyle worn in the African American community. (Courtesy of Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum)

“There is a movement that is happening now. You can feel it,” Harris said. “The fact that Viola Davis has gotten so much recognition and acclaim for simply just wearing her natural hair. Who would have thought you would get such recognition for just being yourself? Just being yourself can be this cultural avant-garde garde statement. ... It is a wonderful time now. The Euro-centric canons of beauty are being dissolved a bit. The platform for beauty is truly expanding.”

“Heads Up,” 2 p.m. , Sunday, March 4, Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum , 1901 Fort Place SE , Washington , D.C. 20020 . For reservations, call 202-633-4844.

lifestyle

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read

lifestyle

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters