Ivorian artist Laetitia Ky goes beyond the braid in a series of fantastical hair sculptures

A set of hands playing the guitar. A flower vase. A hand holding a phone for a selfie. These are just some of the magical subjects that Ivory Coast’s Laetitia Ky uses to create her once in a lifetime hair sculptures. Far beyond the boundaries of Africa’s highly creative repertoire of natural hairstyles, Ky brings everyday objects and black hair together with flair, skill and some fun.

And the work could not have come at a better time. Within the framework of countless conversations around ‘good hair,’ ‘bad hair,’ ‘weaves vs natural’ and every discussion in between, Ky’s approach is playful and wry – in some ways educating her audience about the wonders and possibilities of black hair, and in other ways, injecting a playful tone to what can tend to be a wholly serious conversation. Speaking to OkayAfrica, Ky explains her inspiration,

“I came across an Instagram album of hairstyles women used to wear in some African tribes prior to colonization. These hairstyles were really impressive and made me want to use hairstyling as a means of expression,” she explains.

The response to the work has been powerful, to say the least. From spots in international magazines like Allure, to coverage in Buzzfeed and even viral content hub Bored Panda and attempts by other artists to replicate a similar approach to hair, what started off as hair, wool and hair extensions has ignited a new branch of black hair pride for Africans in Africa, as well as the far-reaching diaspora.

Not without its haters, Ky has had to endure some ignorant comments on her Instagram account, but the response has been overwhelmingly warm and powerful – particularly because of the authenticity, warmth and love which so obviously drives each image.

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