The Art of Black Hair exhibition is being held on the stairway at the centre of Hyson Green's New Art Exchange (Photo: Bartozs Kali)

Walking up the stairs inside the New Art Exchange of Hyson Green, visitors will have the chance to learn about a topic that has been the subject of much debate over the years.

The relaxation of the hair is something that people in the African-Caribbean community had to struggle with for a long time and consists of straightening Afro-textured hair so that it may look more like Caucasian hair.

The Art of Black Hair is a brand new exhibition created by the New Art Exchange in collaboration with Museumand – the National Caribbean Heritage Museum, to celebrate the history of Afro hairstyles and the art behind them.

Members of the community were invited to the New Art Exchange to share their stories about the struggle and fun they experienced when trying to express their culture through their hair.

Photographer, Bartozs Kali, took portraits of the speakers to show the variety of styles that Afro-textured hair can be worn in.

Afro hair are adaptable to a wide variety of different styles
Afro hair is adaptable to a wide variety of different styles

New Art Exchange’s Marketing and Communication Manager, Laura-Jade Vaughan, said: “The exhibition explores black hair in a number of ways. It looks at how hairstyles can play an important role in our identity and it celebrate the artistry of Afro hairstyling.

“The show traces an interesting social history, from a time when there were fewer products and hairstylists that catered for the African-Caribbean community in Britain.

“Within the African-Caribbean community there has been a lot of debate about how you should keep your hair, and here at the New Art Exchange we have had a lot of events about the politics of black hair.

“We had a very positive response to our project and about 40 people participated in a special event where we collected hair stories and photographed hairstyles. this event formed the basis of the exhibition.”

The exhibition, held on the stairway inside the gallery, displays the portraits taken by Bartozs Kali, a short film showing the contributors telling their stories, and various pieces of hair memorabilia from Museumand’s archives.

A short film tells the stories of the local people who contributed to the exhibition
A short film tells the stories of the local people who contributed to the exhibition (Photo: Bartozs Kali)

Creative director for Museumand, Lynda Burrell, explained that in the past black men and women were forced to straighten their hair, as Afro-textured hair, often described as ‘kinky’ because of their spiralled and twisted shape, was considered messy in schools and work environments, especially when worn long.

Lynda said: “There has been a lot of improvement in the acceptance of Afro hairstyles since the Black is Beautiful movement promoted black fashion and made it into a statement of beauty in the 60s.

“We are not conforming anymore, we are having a voice about it and proving that Afro hairstyles actually do fit into the corporate world.”

“We are not conforming anymore, we are having a voice about it and proving that Afro hairstyles actually do fit into the corporate world.”

The Art of Black Hair will run at the New Art Exchange until March 19th and visitors can contribute to it by leaving comments in an interactive area.

For more information about the New Art Exchange initiatives and events, check their website at: www.nae.org.uk

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