The Afro Talks Back
“Untangling the Naps” investigates the cultural and historical significance of the Afro, and how the afro is expressed today. I explore images of the Afro/’fro/Natural and how they were used to define blackness, racial pride, and ultimately, the black design aesthetic.
The themes for this work focus on identity, hair, blackness and power, ideas expressed in the statement by Robin D. G. Kelley, Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC College.
“No matter what we might think about culture and style as a terrain of struggle, hairstyle politics, particularly in the Black community, reveal a great deal about power—the power of white over black, men over women, employer over workers, state over citizens.” — By Robin D. G. Kelley, Nap Time: Historicizing the Afro
My field of enquiry is based on my long-term research into the black aesthetic influence on graphic design in the twentieth century. The title, “Untangling the Naps,” suggests how I have used the Afro as a graphic narrative, in the next phase of my quest to understand the black aesthetic. In my research I investigate the historical and cultural significance of the Afro in the past, and in its current expressions. I have also researched the struggles that describe the “politics of style,” and explore the images and signifiers of the Afro/’fro/Natural that are used to define blackness, racial pride, and the new black design aesthetic of hip. My objective is to illustrate the ways this natural hairstyle has been used as a significant graphic element in the black vernacular narrative and in social media to brand black hipness.