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Identity Crisis: The Sacred Text of the Afro Hair Ritual

Katlego Malebye


Parish Priests:

Tuliza Sindi, Muhammad Dawjee


19 - The Act of Service

The pencil test was used during apartheid to determine one’s racial identity and territorial designation. Twenty-six years after democracy, the remnants of that test remain evident in model-c schools through the policing of African hair, rendering under continued attack the sense of identity and belonging of black children in historically white-designated spaces, and in the world at large.

The project explores the notion of coming home to oneself, where one exists as both site and home. The work explores how unstable and everchanging site becomes as a result of crisis when hair rituals are lost, and the author attempts to re-make sites of belonging in herself and her mother again.

The work presents the afro hair ritual in the form of a sacred text. It culminates in a series of renders of unlocated ritual moments. These renders, which explored volume, texture, weight and colour, introduce less so the material realities of site, but more its transporting and transcendent characteristics: the experience of volume, light, dark, depth, isolation, submersion. This is experienced between the thighs of her mother, while on her knees, underneath her hands and/or arms, and the many more positions taken in the rituals surrounding hair.

Mother Site. Malebye, K. Unit 19. 2020

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