Adebunmi Gbadebo

My work began out of a rejection of traditional art materials because of their association with Whiteness. Art history teaches us that the masters, the best to have ever used paint or those worthy enough to be painted, were white men. Not only did I reject that narrative and its materials, but I also went on to find a material and a history in which to root my own work that positions the people who looked like me as central to my practice.

My material is human hair from people of the African Diaspora. Our hair is so connected to our culture, politics, and history!  It is history and DNA. The process of working with hair has allowed me to utilize my community as an integral part of my studio practice. Local barbershops and people’s homes have become my art store. My community helps me create every artwork! Strangers trust me to give a new purpose to their hair. Thus, with honor, the first piece I made was Dada. Twenty feet of locks sprawled up a wall, literally and metaphorically, forces the viewer to look up to black hair. I have sewn hair to canvas and I hand sew most of my work. The needle replaces my brush and instantly, the process became more involved allowing me to pierce through surfaces to insert “nappy” hair. The needle also slows the process and reflects that of a hairdresser or a mother working on her child’s head that rests in between her thighs. I am looking for ways to integrate genealogies of the diaspora with critical discourse through my use of hair!