Akili Ni Nywele
“Akili ni nywele, kila mtu ana zake.” – Kiswahili Proverb
(Intelligence is like hair, everyone has their own)
Akili ni Nywele looks at perceptions of African beauty with relation to hair. It looks at the currently rising trend of weaving hair onto women’s own heads, usually as a sign of success in urban areas and as a lifestyle choice for the modern Nairobi woman. It asks about the origin of that perception of beauty as related to long, “flappable,” straight hair. Akili ni Nywele asks us to review our built environment (urban environment) by looking at what has been told to us as African girls growing up and what we continue to say to our own little girls about what beauty is. It also looks at men’s role in the construction and perpetuation of ideals of beauty. From this, the work discusses expectations of women, first as items of beauty and secondly as accessories that need “tidying” up.
Just like the saying goes, everyone charts his or her own path. However, who set whom on the first step to that path? Who put whom where, with respect to these expectations?
The work involves a video piece within an immersive installation that amplifies and analyses stereotypically defined societal expectations and definitions of femininity and women’s image.