Chromatin: The Geometry of Nigerian Hairstyles

Artist Medina Dugger explores geometry, color and the archive of Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere.

African Artists' Foundation

Chromatin (series) (2017) by Medina DuggerOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

The geometry behind African hairstyles

Chromatin is the animated variation of Medina Dugger’s Chroma photo project which celebrates women’s hair styles in Nigeria. Chroma 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. 


HairstylesOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

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. 

Chromatin (series) (2017) by Medina DuggerOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

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. 

Chromatin (series) (2017) by Medina DuggerOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

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.

Chromatin (series) (2017) by Medina DuggerOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

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 by centuries of colonization and cultural domination.

Chromatin (series) (2017) by Medina DuggerOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation

With Chromatin, Francois and Medina are not only highlighting the geometrical patterns in African hairdos, they’re also re-envisioning fractals in contemporary African art.

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