Chromatin: African Hair Geometry

Chromatin: African Hair Geometry

Chromatin is the animated variation of Medina Dugger’s Chroma photo project. The latest project by françois beaurain that celebrates women’s hair styles in Nigeria and finds its inspiration in hair colour trends in Lagos and by the late Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere. Chromatin features geometrical and fractal constructions made from Nigerian hair designs which are geometrical and fractal constructs in-and-of themselves. Chromatin offers a deeper insight into the geometry behind African hairstyles, highlighting the importance of this practice specific to Africa and the diaspora.

In biology, chromatin designates the macromolecule in which DNA is packed and it is known to adopt complex and repetitive geometry. This macromolecule was named this way for its ability to fix dyes. Chromatin explores and gives a new perspective of the relationship between design and colours in contemporary braiding methods underlying the importance of geometric and fractal patterns in African culture.

Fractals used to be at the heart of African design and art. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, African societies developed recursive patterns (with smaller parts mirroring larger parts), which informed the layout of African villages, hairdos and patterns in African art. These fractals can be found from ancient Egypt to Sub-Saharan Africa at large, but were completely ignored by the West, which only conceptualized fractals by the end of the XXth century. The fact that the Europeans were unable to understand the subtleties of fractals, underscores a limiting, ethnocentric perspective which undoubtedly contributed to their assessment of African art and societies as primitive, when, on this specific point of art and mathematics, the Western world was (at least) many centuries behind.

Braiding is one of the rare contemporary cultural practice where fractals can still be found in Africa. African hair designs are among the last remaining remnants of an ancient African cultural pillar that has been almost completely annihilated by centuries of colonization and cultural domination.

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