Tuesday, 25 October 2011

African Hair & Now

On Thursday I attended a talk at the Petrie Museum called African Hair & Now.
The talk was presented by Egyptologist Sally-Ann Ashton and explored the history of the Afro comb including it's significance within Ancient Egyptian culture.

Although Sally-Ann had held the African Hair & Now talk, the previous Saturday (as advertised on Events Page), I had missed it, so I was very happy for the second opportunity to attend. I was even happier to see two familiar faces arrive just after me....
My friends Joanna & Rochelle at African Hair & Now
They were definitely representing for #Teamnatural
I LOVED BOTH their styles!

The presentation was a very interesting one, with some incredible images of natural hair and hair tools from across various African cultures. I took a few pictures but I'm hoping to be sent a few more from Sally-Ann.

Sally-Ann explained to us that African Hair & Now was just one event that was being held in advance of what is planned to be an Exhibiton of the History of the Afro Comb, to be held in 2013; therefore, as much as the evening was a presentation, she also hoped for it to be a discussion about Afro hair. By the end of the evening I don't think she was disappointed as Joanna, Rochelle and myself had stories that could go on for days (as Im sure most Black women do.)

I was very encouraged by her motivations and goals, including her intention to strengthen the arguments connecting Ancient Egypt to traditional African origins and culture, despite what she feels is a tendency of some other Egyptologist' to try and isolate it from the continent.

During the talk Sally-Ann highlighted many of the links between ancient depictions of hair and traditional, as well as modern, Afro hair styling techniques and practices; with braids being just one example from many.

Comparisons have be drawn between the Ancient Egyptian
War Crown
(above & left) and this Watusi hairstyle (right).

The significance of the coils depicted in the Egyptian War crown
is a hotly debated topic. Many suggest they are representative of the
tight curl pattern of Afro hair.
 We were also shown quotes by the museum's founder Petrie, who stated that he had observed notable differences between hair combs used by ancient Egyptians and Europeans.
Sally-Ann has been exploring what this could show us in more depth and admitted that much of her time recently has been spent measuring the distance between the teeth of various ancient combs which may provide very important evidence regarding the originating and previously dominant African presence in Egypt.
She revealed that the increased European presence in Egypt corresponds with the gradual narrowing of the distance between comb teeth.
In addition to this she explained that prior to the increased European presence in Africa, many of the combs were carved with images and motifs which represented animals and often gods, but this common practice declined (for example with Roman influence) and thus everyday references to traditional gods was reduced. Instead these appear to have been replaced with standard patterns. 

We also addressed the general significance of symbolism in African
culture that remains present today.
 There were many other great bits information that I found interesting including knowing that some people were buried with combs in their hair and others with combs wrapped in hair beside them; also, in some places you would be unable to buy a comb from anyone other than a specialist and combs if made by women would first have to be cleansed before they could be sold.

Some of the ancient tools are on display at the Petrie Museum which is open to the public for visits and there are also some great books available to buy. Click Here: Petrie Museum
Books available to buy from Museum
If you attended the talk earlier in the week, I'd love to know your thoughts. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes pealed for similar events in the run up to the exhibition.

P.S Wud Luv U 2 Subscribe x


  1. Excellent blog you really capture the essence of the talk and our discussion. Cool pictures, really excited about upcoming events. Rochelle

  2. Great Blog.... the combs and the distance between the teeth..... not clear on what the results are. but further evidence that the ancient egypticians were africans


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