hair stylist cyndia harvey explores the beauty of afro hair in a new short film
In a new and very personal project, Cyndia explores the beauty, pride and strength of natural black hair.
Cyndia Harvey is the Jamaican-born, London-based hair stylist shaking up the fashion industry. A former assistant to Sam McKnight, Cyndia signed to one of the world's biggest creative agencies Streeters and soon began working with an array of top photographers, including Tim Walker and Alasdair McLellan. Soon after, her work began filling the pages of British Vogue and i-D. More recently, she created the looks for Calvin Klein's latest advertising campaign, shot by Tyrone Lebon.
Yet, in her new and very personal film project, Cyndia takes a decidedly different route. Named This Hair of Mine, she celebrates the history of the African diaspora, using black hair as the central narrative. The subjects in Cyndia's pan-African film share their family traditions, beloved proverbs and tales of growing up in London with a dual nationality portrayed beautifully through the film's permanent split screen. Themes of strength, beauty and pride run throughout, with close up shots highlighting the intricate detailing of Cyndia's carefully crafted hairstyles. The film, directed by Akinola Davies Jr. and styled by PC Williams, debuted at the AKAA art fair in Paris over the weekend in partnership with Nataal. With perfectly matched music from Arca, the film cleverly adds to the widening conversations in regards to natural black hair and freedom of expression.
The This Hair of Mine film is beautiful - what inspired you to put together this project?
Firstly, I really wanted to celebrate black women, their hair and all the beauty and diversity of it. I was inspired really by going to work everyday, and not getting to work with afro hair as much as I would like too. Looking at what's been happening in South Africa, with young girls being told that the hair that grows out of their head is not socially acceptable is just horrifying. This isn't just happening in South Africa either, it's happening globally, even on our home turf, where pupils are being dismissed from school for wearing natural afro hair. It's a problem we should not be facing in 2016.
What was the thought process behind the different hairstyles you choose for the women in your film?
I wanted the film to feel very personal and intimate by using the hair as the main narrative to tell each girl's story. I worked with them to try and find out as much as we could about their ancestry. With that information, I created traditional hairstyles from specific tribes dating back to the 19th century and reinterpreted them on each girl.
What was the best thing about growing up in Jamaica, and do you think your experiences living there as a child have inspired your work - and if so how?
The best thing about growing up in Jamaica was the sea, sun and most of all the outdoor space! Also the spirit of community, everyone was your mother, your aunt or your cousin. Everyone looked out for each other and took great care of one another. I'm from a very modest family so not having all the luxuries I thought I was missing out on made me very creative with the things around me. I was always trying to make up for that.
The conversations around how black women choose to wear their hair have always been both political and personal. As a discussion that continues to evolve, especially online, what would you like people to take away from this film?
In this current political and social climate, I think it's very important to do anything you can, no matter how big or small. We must use any voice or platform we have to fight for the visibility of any marginalised group of people. Hair has always had a language and I want people to watch this film and have a new appreciation of what beauty is and what is considered beautiful, and to really accept that beauty is a broad spectrum and these women are a part of it.
Text Stephen Isaac-Wilson
Film Directed and Edited Akinola Davies Jr
Dop Jack Wells
Production Assistant Nellie Owusu
Colourist Jason Wallis @ ETC
Music Wound courtesy of Arca
Sound Callum Harrison and Joseph Bond