University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Centre of African Studies Michaelmas Seminar Series > Origins of the Afro comb Project: 6000 years of African combs

Origins of the Afro comb Project: 6000 years of African combs

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For both men and women, hair and grooming have always played an important role in the culture of Africa and its Diaspora communities. As well as serving a practical function – that of creating, maintaining and decorating hair-styles – in both modern and ancient African societies, hair-combs symbolise status, group affiliation and religious belief, and are encoded with ritual meaning and properties. In the twentieth century, ‘Afro’ combs have taken on a wider political and cultural message, perhaps most notably in the ‘Black Fist’ comb that references the Black power salute, and which is still worn by members of the African Diaspora as a statement of solidarity and cultural affinity.

This talk will offer an introduction to a major research project on African hair combs, culminating in a special exhibition in 2013 entitled ‘Origin of the Afro Comb’ . Combining recent archaeological and anthropological research with oral histories and personal testimonies, the exhibition and related publications will trace the history of African hair combs from their earliest appearance in Pre-dynastic Egypt to their re-emergence amongst the African Diaspora communities in the Americas, Britain and the Caribbean.

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Michaelmas Seminar Series series.

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