Whether in relation to culture, class or status, head-ties have been worn throughout history to highlight critical elements of one’s personal identity. For African Americans, the headwrap holds a distinctive position in the history of American dress both for its longevity and for its potent significance. Originating in Africa, it endured the travail of slavery and never went out of fashion. The headwrap represents far more than a piece of fabric wound around the head, in itself, it is a legacy. During slavery, the headwrap acquired a paradox of meaning not customary to its ancestral continent; white overlords imposed wearing a scarf/head wrap as a badge of enslavement.

British-Nigerian photographer, Juliana Kasumu’s recent body of work, From Moussor to Tignon: The Evolution of the Head-tie, traces the origin of the phenomenon that is the woman’s headwrap, presenting influential connections between Creoles of colour in New Orleans and Signares in Senegal, West Africa as iconic leaders of the headwrap movement. Through this project, Kasumu expands on her cultural investigations from behind the lens.

These works were created during Kasumu’s international artist-in-residence program, organised by the Olaju Art Group in partnership with the Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture at Dillard University. This September, The McKenna Museum of African-American Art in New Orleans, LA will show this unique contemporary exhibition.

‘From Moussor to Tignon’ offers a unique perspective of the head-tie, not only as a means of re-appropriating customs but also as an emblem of re-appreciation for one’s African heritage. As a continuation of Kasumu’s Irun Kiko series, this collection further exemplifies the interconnectivity between contemporary fashion and traditional culture.

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Kasumu, born in 1992 in London, is a photographer with a focus on exploring the contemporary significance of cultural traditions from West Africa. Using conscious imagery to highlight the interconnectivity of women, culture, and fashion, her subject matter is chosen based on a quest for personal knowledge concerning issues related to Africa and its Diaspora. By interweaving cultural research and stunning portraitures, she is able to express critical ideas with the intent of educating her audience. Photographs by Juliana Kasumu have been exhibited for the use of raising awareness to less spoken narratives by women of color. She has created an on-going series exploring traditional hair statements within the Yoruba tribe in West Africa. Images from the ‘Irun Kiko’ series have received international acclaim, most recently being awarded the Renaissance Photography Prize 2015 for Best Single Image and making the shortlist for the D&AD Next Photographer Awards. Irun Kiko, based on Kasumu’s final year dissertation, served as the springboard for her career as a visual artist.

The exhibition opens on September 10th, 2016 and runs until October 11th, 2016 at The McKenna Museum of African-American Art, New Orleans, LA.

Top featured image and other images courtesy of Olaju Art Group.