Featuring braided and sculpted styles entwined with wools and colourful extensions, Medina Dugger’s series Chroma is a vivid depiction of modern hair styling in Nigeria. Discussing her inspirations, the Californian-born, Lagos-based photographer references photographer Iké Udé’s description of fashion and one’s ‘look’ – including one’s hairstyle – as examples of our ‘cultural skin’. “This concept really struck me” she explains.
Chroma also unmistakably pays homage to J.D. Okhai Ojeikere’s revered series Hairstyles, a collection of over 1000 photographs which sought to document the intricate hairstyles of African women. “I enjoy the simplicity and strength of Ojeikere’s images and appreciate the role they play in recording an important part of history in a very personal way”, Dugger explains. Anthropologically important, his photographs act as a documentary record of African hair culture over the 40-year period that they were taken. As well as paying tribute to this series, Chroma seeks to carry it into the present, revisiting the hairstyles through a contemporary lens – the main change being that Dugger is able to present the works in vibrant colour.
The hairstyles in the series were created by Lagos-based hairstylist Ijeoma Christopher, who incorporated colourful hair wraps and extensions found at local markets. Chroma therefore presents modernised hairstyles currently adopted by the women of Lagos (“gold, purple, blue and maroon are most commonly used”) while referencing the rich lineage and symbolism of the original styles.
“I think with this increasingly globalised and stylized world, Ojeikere’s archive is a reminder of the importance of maintaining visual records of past practices.”