“THE BLACK WOMAN’S CROWN”
“The Black Woman’s Crown” Artist Statement by Brandon D. Watts – First displayed and created in 2017
Art, to me, brings a sense of peace and sometimes a “justice” served. It brings value to the things forgotten, or lost, in everyday distraction. In this series, “The Black Woman’s Crown”, the emotions I wish to emphasize are pride, empowerment, beauty and rebellion.
The abolishment of slavery was passed by Congress (13th amendment) on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865. Due to the 13th amendment that provided that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude” would be allowed, many black people felt compelled to smooth or straighten their hair and to brighten their skin in order to blend into society. These characteristics impact both males and females; however, these effects tend to be stronger for females. According to Mr. Lynch, during the civil rights movement, the afro hairstyle was “a symbol of rebellion, pride and empowerment”.
In this statement, I’m trying to convey that the “Afro” is black culture and it’s more than just a hair-style. In my series, black women are featured because they’re the adhesive who hold up their culture. They’re the ones who sometimes stand alone, nurture and give us the strength to carry on by lifting us up, raising us and being strong influences in the lives of every black child and man. This is the reason my work is a reflection of me, because of my grandmother, my late grandmother, my mother, sisters, and aunts. Without the stories of their struggles in life, I would not comprehend nor be able to understand the black culture.
As you look at my series, “The Black Woman’s Crown” I want you to notice the rhythm, the flow, the techniques and lighting used in the photos. You will see my main photo with a silhouette which represents every black woman, as well as every black person. The different colors represent society as a whole. However, black people are still viewed differently and misjudged simply due to the pigment of their skin; black, mocha, caramel, chocolate, etc. No matter the pigment, black is beautiful and the afro represents the rebellion on being forced to fit into a culture that is not ours. It shows that we’re not here to be remade, nor molded into what others want us to be. To rebel against that and accept the value in our culture, the beauty, empowerment and the pride, we can move forward. The world still sees black and white; therefore, we must cross the line to bring awareness to the situation. Please notice the choice of the Black and White photos! The world is still seeing black and white; therefore, we must cross the line to bring awareness to this situation. In the series, emphasis of every photo, pattern, rhythm and harmony are focused on the afro hairstyle.
In closing, I truly believe that I have done my job if these photos bring awareness, equality, empowerment, happiness and strength to those who took the time to review my work.
Jahangir, Rumena. “How does black hair reflect black history?” EasyBib. BBC. 31 May, 2015. Web. 19 January, 2017.
“THE BLACK MAN’S STRENGTH”
“The Black Man’s Strength” Artist Statement by Brandon D. Watts – First displayed and created in 2018
Last year, I created a series of work called “The Black Woman’s Crown,” which discussed the symbolism of the “black afro” as it relates to black women. In short, this is how I created my new Limited-Edition Series, “The Black Man’s Strength.”
Before the slave trade, hairstyles were a unique marker of tribal identity, rank and status in West African societies. Hairstyles were almost like a person’s Social Security number. Your hairstyle really signified where you belong and to whom you belonged.
When Africans were brought to America, slave traders shaved their heads. They were basically making people anonymous. That Middle Passage was an erasure of identity. In the past, people of African descent have been punished for wearing their natural hair proudly. In the 1960s during the Black Power Movement, afros became very political and a symbol of a renewed pride in one’s African roots.
Today, dreadlocks have been found throughout history but one of the defining moments of dreadlocks came about as a result of the Rastafarian religious movement. The Rastafarians have distinctive dress codes and behavior which includes the rejection of Western medicine, the wearing of dreadlocks, smoking of cannabis and adherence to specific diets. They used dreadlocks as a symbol of embracing African heritage and a defiance of the system, while fighting for Black freedom and power. Also, “People from different faiths look at their hair to be holy and as a form of strength and power,” says Slater. “To not comb your hair, to some, is a disregard of vanity and things of the world.” But, it’s more than just a dismissal of the physical world; it’s a Rastafarian belief that knotted hair prevents energy from escaping through the top of the head and hair, allowing it to remain the body and aid in the STRENGTH of mind, body, and spirit.” Even in the Holy Bible you hear of people like Sampson who gather his strength from his hair.
The dreadlocks shouldn’t have been seen as something unprofessional but a part of history. A dreadlock hairstyle is a symbol of “Racial Selfhood” not a disgrace to the people. Many Rastafarian men allow their hair to grow out into “dreadlocks” – the term “dread” having become a praise-word in their vocabulary. It’s employed to describe the confrontation of a people, who are struggling to maintain racial selfhood, which they contend has been denied them. In part, the purpose behind these long plaits of hair is to demonstrate a contrast to the generally straight hair of Caucasians, and to “mock” those who disdain their bedraggled appearance. The truth is that God made human beings in his image; therefore, one’s genetic hair is God’s love for the person.