Rising visual artist Kudakwashe Dongo is interrogating the side effects of artificial hairs in his solo exhibition.
Dubbed: “Past, Present and Future,” the exhibition which runs until end of April at the newly opened Artillery Gallery in Mount Pleasant, Dongo brings out how after being discarded weaves and wigs (artificial hairs) contribute to environmental degradation.
“In this exhibition I put up most of the work I made during my career as an artist. It’s a chronicle of my journey in discovering who I am,” he said.
“My piece on artificial hair is the most current, expressing where I am going as an artist. You will see me using discarded artificial hairs more and more in the future.”
Artificial hairs, commonly worn by African women have generated a lot of debate around African beauty and pride. The hairs commonly known as weaves, are imported from Brazil, China and India, something which sees the country spending millions of the country’s valued foreign currency on trinkets which are hazardous to the environment when discarded.
Critics have charged that artificial hairs are un-African and help to make the exporting countries rich. Renowned African jazz maestro, Hugh Masekela hated weaves, extensions and chemically straightened hair so much he refused to take pictures with black women who didn’t wear “natural” hair.
“We spend about a billion rand on other people’s hair each year. I don’t even know where to begin on this issue,” Masekela once remarked while delivering a speech focused on his disdain for the youth’s dwindling sense of heritage. He was quite vocal on issues such as indigenous languages, storytelling and music, but his position on hair was the most provocative. And, in a major, Dongo captures the contradictions that go with weaves.
In the past, Dongo’s works dealt with such topics as heartbreaks, violation of trust, love, self-discovery, and the importance of education, among other themes.