Dark and Lovely: A Lexicon of Forms and Aspiration
The beauty supply store is a site of commerce and exchange. These retail outlets are ubiquitous to spaces where a significant population identifying as black reside. I am familiar with these spaces from the streets of Harare where I originate from, my home country Zimbabwe. During my visits to Detroit, Johannesburg, London, Maputo I have been intrigued and drawn to the sameness of beauty supply stores. In all these settings customers lean over counters, pointing to packets of synthetic and human hair to shop floor assistants who reach up with poles to unhook the desired product. The walls and shelves of these enterprises are covered with a mosaic of objects. Packets of hair extensions, boxes of hairdyes, tubs of hair gel, stray bottles of setting lotion, tins of hair pomade and hair food, mannequin heads wearing lace-front wigs, combs in plastic packets, rollers, hair ties and do-rags. Black women and black men with luxurious curls, slick waves and Rapunzel length braids look back at me from the surface of the packaging.
Beauty Plus, New Haven, Connecticut
Black Beauty Supply store in the Bronx, New York
Much of my research and production acknowledges images making techniques based within communities of people of African descent. The work draws on motifs and codified visuals elements that are reinforced through our daily routine and rituals around grooming and self-styling.
‘Black Thang’ is an opportunity to experiment with object making and pattern and arrangements. During a shopping trip to a beauty supply store in the Bronx I purchased some hair products with associations to black identity in their title. The original set of products purchased for my initial exploration carry the following names–
Dark and Lovely
Aragon oil from Morrocco
Jamaican Black Castor Oil
Black Bees Wax
‘Black Thang’ and installation of black resin objects modelled off products from Black Beauty supplies stores.