Arts + Culture
From the series 'I Am Not My Hair' by Aisha Mohamed. Photo courtesy of artist.

This Digital Art Series Celebrates the Ethereal Beauty of Bald Black Women

Somali-British digital artist Aisha Mohamed shows how black women's versatility goes beyond having hair in her newest series, "I Am Not My Hair."

Aisha Mohamed is a 22-year-old digital artist from South London who takes images of our favorite black beauties and places them in an ethereal, Afrofuturist realm.

Mohamed took interest in creating digital art since she was a teen, but she says she had to walk away from creating and take a break. "Back then it was mostly just about creating art from my favorite TV shows and films. After a while, I realized it wasn't really fulfilling me the way I needed," she says via email. "After taking a long hiatus, when I did return to creating digital pieces, I knew that it had to be in conjunction with something that resonated with me. Black women were the answer."


Her newest series, I Am Not My Hair, has already has made its rounds on the internet—not only because it's stunning, but also because of its message.

In this series, Mohamed remixes portraits of Danai Gurira, Aweng Chuol and Ataui Deng, placing their rich skin against muted colors that emulate the the different shades of the sky at night. A sea of textured stars layer the portraits, as if one is staring at a constellation. For Mohamed, I Am Not My Hair gives another perspective regarding the relationship a black woman can have with her hair.

"I did a piece a few months ago showcasing the versatility of black hair, which was really fun, but I wanted to flip it somehow," she says. "Our hair can be a very integral part of our culture and history, but I think a lot of the time people think black hair is part of our identity—at the end of the day, it's just hair and I wanted to reflect that in some way. My hair isn't the most important part of me."

With or without our versatile tresses, black women still command a presence many can only emulate at only a fraction—and this series proves that. Take a look at I Am Not My Hair below. To keep up with Aisha Mohamed, follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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