“HAIR HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN INTEGRAL PART OF OUR HISTORY AS BLACK PEOPLE, FROM DETERMINING ONE’S STATUS IN THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC HIERARCHY TO MAPPING OUT EXIT ROUTES DURING SLAVERY. MY HAIR ACTS AS A MONUMENT; AS NOT ENOUGH OF THESE STORIES ARE TOLD,” SAYS HAIR ADVOCATE, CULTURE CURATOR AND STYLE THERAPIST KWENA BALOYI.
Baloyi has been snatching wigs since she first began her career as a stylist, serving breath-taking looks from Dakar, all the way to Spain. Through her hair movement, ‘AfrikanKrowns’, she has solidified her place in the creative industry as a thought leader, a trailblazer, as well as a voice of hope, having helped change the status quo of African fashion and beauty. ‘AfrikanKrowns’ celebrates black culture, embraces natural hair and shines a spotlight on black hair. Last year, she partnered with renowned photographer, Trevor Sturman for a hair photo series, titled ‘Afrikan Krown’, aimed at highlighting how each person chooses to wear their ‘Krown’ with pride.
THE AFRIKAN KROWN SERIES
“My hair plays a very significant role in identifying myself, it doesn’t define me but is an extension of who I am. AfrikanKrowns came after I felt there was a need for me to tell stories of strong women who inspire me on a daily. I live as a reminder of how black people used to wear their crowns. The visual series is a way of branching out and ensuring that we document the glorious times we live in now,” she says.
“I want AfricanKrowns to be a platform where black women embrace their hair with strength and valance, for us to tell stories of many black people while simultaneously changing the narrative to suit our times, I want people to start noticing black women in every single space, and AfrikanKrowns will give many the platform to do just that.”
Social movements such as #BlackLivesMatter #MelaninMonday #BlackGirlsRock and #BlackGirlMagic to mention a few, have helped change the narrative, and encourage self-acceptance, amongst other things. We live in a time where black people are no longer ashamed of themselves, a time where we no longer look down on curly type 3B hair, or kinky type 3C hair, or coiled type 4B hair. We are slowly transforming into a world that celebrates blackness in all its forms. AfrikanKrowns is one of the growing movements that celebrate womanhood and blackness.
Through her art and hair movement, she says she wishes to create spaces for black women to tell important stories, that are not only inspiring, but life changing. She would also like to see black women take up spaces in the art scene, to work as a collective so the world can know about the work they do.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Born in Moletjie Ga- Makibelo, a village in Limpopo, Baloyi’s eye drifted inevitably to the spectacle world of fashion after her uncle and father ignited her interest in fashion, she fell in love with clothes at a young age. In an interview with Destiny Magazine, she says her love and passion for fashion and styling began when she was growing up in Moletjie Ga- Makibelo village. “I just loved how my uncles, dad and everyone in the community used to dress. I used to observe how they took normal clothes and made them look extraordinary. I learned from my uncle that the styling aspect was key. I experimented on my own until my first job in retail, which involved merchandising and helping customers. My love of creating new looks and playing with different items to make a look work and stand out grew stronger and here I am still shifting and creating.”
Initially, she wanted to be a model, but that dream died after learning that her stunning legs are a tad too short to strut the catwalk. The closest she could get was styling models, not too long after that she started working in retail. Her passion for curating saw her join Drum Magazine as an assistant stylist, a job that would open her to a network of clients and vast opportunities.
To this day, Baloyi draws her inspiration from street culture and ordinary people, as she finds them authentic. The 29-year old’s sense of style caught the attention of leading fashion house Vogue Italia and music icon Simphiwe Dana.
She has since worked as a stylist on television productions, adverts, wardrobe designs, music videos and magazine shoots. Baloyi has also made an appearance on Superbalist and featured on Spree campaign alongside other style influencers. She is also the first nominee and recipient of the Marie Claire Image Makers 2018 New Guard Stylist Award.
It’s hard to adequately explain the torture and pain black kids have had to endure when visiting hair salons for a perm or relaxer, an exercise done in the name of ‘beauty’ and seemingly to fit into society’s standards of beauty. Nevertheless, black people have come a long way since then.