In this photo series, resulting from a collaborative process involving hair activists and community salons, Liliana Angulo Cortés seeks to document oral traditions and practices associated with hair care and the global sense of identity among the diverse African diaspora via braided hair designs, which unites people from distinct areas despite the linguistic and cultural di ferences created by colonialism.
During the slavery period in Colombia and the Caribbean, individuals who were escaping slavery and establishing maroon communities of free people often used hairdos as maps of escape. The braids and hair designs were secret codes in which particular styles indicated each means of escape – by land or water – while others indicated dangers on the route. While braiding, people who were enslaved learned about escape plans in the mines or plantations and which actions to follow during their escape. Seeds and gold were kept on their heads to survive in freedom and helped form the basis of the free communities that sprung and in some cases survived for centuries across the Americas.
Angulo Cortés, who is of African-Colombian descent, has worked in di ferent regions of Latin America, seeking to contribute to the struggles of communities of African descent through a critical artistic practice that weakens the structural manifestations of power that enforces inequality. Angulo Cortés questions stereotypes and expresses the multiplicity of Blackness, countering the objecti fcation and simpli fcation of the culture of the African diaspora by exploring memory and power in issues of representation, identity, discourses of race, the body and its image, the case for historical reparations, and through her direct collaborative work with social organisations.