23 X 32 CM
On the surface, this is just a picture of an African and Caribbean hair grooming practice. Yet ironically this simple style holds a strong position of conflicting ideologies in today’s society. On one hand, it is still used as a signifier of difference, employed as an excuse to ban kids from schools, block people from promotions in the workplace, and refuse admission into the security and armed forces.
However, on the other hand, it has been appropriated into popular culture as nothing more than a fashion symbol, stripped of its negative connotations, and re-introduced as a hairstyle for all.
Nonetheless, the history of this hairstyle is much deeper than the polar opposites that it presents today. This same style was used by enslaved Africans in America and the Caribbean to design escape roots which were created through the intricate parts and patterns plaited into the hair. ’Cornrows’ were literally that, maps to show ways out of the plantation which were surrounded by rows of cornfields.
So, on the face of a stereotype that either depicts social nonacceptance or cultural adoption lies a complex and uncelebrated history that is forgotten and ignored.