Beauty
Image from Josef Adamu's 'The Hair Appointment' Series. Photo by Jeremy Rodney-Hall

Reclaiming Tradition: How Hair Beads Connect Us to Our History

A history of beads and African hair jewelry told through the unforgettable story of Baroness Floella Benjamin.

In 1977, Trinidadian-British actress and singer Floella Benjamin (OBE) was on her way to premiere her new blaxploitation film Good Joy at the Cannes Film Festival in the south of France. Styled in braids carefully accented by layered beads, she knew she'd standout amongst the festival's mostly white attendees, but nothing prepared her for the kind of reception she would ultimately receive.

"We drove along the [Promenade of] La Croisette," she recalls, "in an open top Cadillac for the film premiere and as we passed along, the crowds tried to grab my hair to get a bead as a souvenir."

It was a decade when sequined jumpsuits, gaudy fur stoles and overgrown sideburns were the norm, yet Benjamin's beaded look—which many black folks would have considered common—was met with unparalleled fascination—a uniquely African hairstyle that black women had been wearing for centuries hadn't been seen before at a place like Cannes. "I stayed at the Carlton Hotel and the maids were intrigued," she recalls. "They kept knocking on my door just to look and stare at me."

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Arts + Culture
Photo still from Daniel Obasi's 'Udara' courtesy of Vlisco.

Daniel Obasi & Yagazie Emezi Probe Igbo Culture's Past and Present Traditions In This New Multimedia Project

The Nigerian artists have created a short film and lookbook in collaboration with Vlisco&co.

At the top of 2018, Nigerian creative Daniel Obasi pushed the envelope with his fashion film collaboration with Vlisco&co, An Alien In Town.

The artist has teamed up again with the Vlisco venture, along with photographer Yagazie Emezi, for the latest edition highlighting Eastern Nigeria.

After touching base with its Nigerian creative network for a roundtable discussion, Vlisco&co presents a unified visual narrative exploring the old and new traditions of Igbo culture and its connection with Vlisco wax. This multimedia project was deeply researched and gave Obasi and Emezi the room to document beliefs, myths and ways of life found in Igbo culture that are still alive, despite the preconceived notion that they are fading away.

These projects feature Vlisco fabrics that are too familiar in Igbo (and Nigerian) households, and were reworked into contemporary designs by Nigerian designers Fruche by Frank Aghuno and Gozel Green.

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