Shani Crowe has solidified herself as Chicago’s hair braiding Queen. The young artist caught the internet by storm with her Braids exhibition which was presented by 3Arts, a non-profit organization in Chicago that assist in promoting local young artists bring their ideas to life. The exhibit opened April 8, 2016 and featured 10 black and white images of African American women, with convoluted hair braids that were reminiscent of crowns and royal headdresses . “I really love the idea of making women that I know look regal, as regal as they are in real life,” Crowe expressed in her exclusive interview with Fusion.
“Braiding is a sacred art in a lot of ways because it’s so rich in tradition—a lot of times we don’t really understand how much it means. Shani went on to say . I’ve always done hair and there were times when [braids] weren’t really as popular and I didn’t do them as much, but [now] all these white girls are coming out wearing cornrows. Someone asked me, “Do you do boxer braids?” and I was like, “You mean box braids? What the hell are boxer braids?” And she was like, “Those braids that Kim Kardashian wears.” Kim Kardashian just has straight-back braids and they aren’t even done that well, they looked pretty popped, and popped in Chicago is not a good thing. Because [braids] are coming out in pop culture and being exploited as a trend in the fashion scene, I think it’s important for me to honor them, before there’s a time when people don’t even remember them as a traditional black art. Plenty of cultures do their own braid styling, but African braiding has its own very long chapter in the history of braiding. I felt charged to make them tangible in a way where I could create an icon that honors my experience with braiding, my love for my clients and a celebration of black feminine beauty coiffeur in my own words, in my own images outside of magazines.”
With a deep appreciation for her culture and the royalty of her roots, Shani uses her hair braiding techniques to honor her heritage and celebrate Black feminine beauty. “I also want to show black people for the gods that they are. Not that just black people are gods, but I think everyone has a divine spark in them. I think that [divine spark is] not anywhere outside of yourself. Everyone has to start with the divine within and I really want to capture that with the braids that I do.” This young artist is truly showcasing Black Beauty in her own extraordinary way. View some more of Shani Crowe’s Braids exhibition below.