Siphokazi V Gigaba

Artist Catalogue

Virtual Exhibition

Reclamation of the Natural Hair

The self-practice focuses on the subject matter of hair. Hair as a symbol and motif has been thoroughly explored throughout the art world by the likes of Lorna Simpson, Cary Fagan, Helena Koudou, Lanairie Aderemi, and Jade Adeyami. The artistic body of works centralizes around the nuanced relationship that I have with my hair due to having black hair in a white world as well as a condition known as Hirsutism. The disorder causes female-bodied individuals to grow and lose hair in male patterns that include facial hair formation as well as temple and crown hair thinning/balding. As I have inherited the disorder, there is no medical intervention that could rewrite my genetic and resultant protein expression. Therefore, I am stuck with the hair and how it will change my body.

This is a significant factor that informs my relationship with hair as I have felt at the mercy of its cultivation due to not being able to seek out some form of procedure. At one end of the spectrum, I am being forced to accept a changing physicality that does not align with the claims ascribed to my gender identity as a woman and the principles of femininity. Another variable that impacts the relationship is how the world relates to my natural hair. As society negatively calls the hair from my scalp “rough”, “hard”, “dreaded” and “nappy”, I have internalized this semantic field and in turn, view my hair as the antagonist.

Additively, this opposition is further shown in the inevitable loss of a huge defining feature of blackness – the afro – whilst instinctively identifying with the race. Although I will still be considered black, the loss of hair which is an important aspect of blackness comes with other losses such as the restriction of traditional and cultural mobility in regards to partaking in hairstyling, academic and societal hair discourse as well as the political Natural Hair Movement.

Despite everything, I also see my hair as the protagonist and acknowledge the innate beauty of my feminine facial hair and delicate/soft coils. My hair rebels against Eurocentric standards, gendered expectations, and societal forces of whiteness. It reasserts its natural right to lay claim over my body before the world does, thus redeeming me.

“My hair rebels against the forces of whiteness and Eurocentric standards. It reasserts its natural right to lay claim over my body before the world does, thus redeeming me.”