British-Nigerian photographer Juliana Kasumu combines cultural research and imagery to critically engage with concepts related to Africa and its diaspora, Black identity, and her own identity as a British-Nigerian woman of colour. Through her photographs she takes on the role of an educator, presenting cultural histories that she was not taught or did not have access to while growing up.
The policing of Black women’s hair and sexuality have been strong conceptual foundations for her work, accompanied by personal memories. The series ‘Irun Kiko’ with its visual potency shares with viewers the symbolism within African hairstyles. The title refers to the Nigerian method for hair threading, originating with the Yoruba. This project looks into the ways in which West African women conform or rebel against European beauty standards. It also intends to inform viewers of the history behind these hairstyles, which are often taken out of their cultural context, alienating them from what gives them significance.
As a continuation from ‘Irun Kiko‘, Kasumu released her series ‘From Moussor to Tignon‘ which shares the value ascribed to various forms of head wraps. At a deeper level she unpacks how they can be intimately connected to personal identity, linking status, class, and culture. Kasumu’s photographs reflect her narration of the origins of this global phenomena, piecing together the bridge between traditional culture and contemporary fashion.