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Crowned is a series of muted, intimate portraits which capture in detail a number of intricate afro hairstyles. The series was created by Khadija Saye, a young photographer who, on the 14th of June 2017, tragically lost her life in the Grenfell Tower fire in West London, aged 24.

Mary-copy
‘Betty’ copy
‘Eku’ copy
‘Fiona’ copy
‘Kamara’ copy
Untitled-copy

Born in London, Saye lived and worked at her family home on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower. Her photographic work explored her Gambian-British identity, with series such as Home. Coming, which documents scenes of everyday life in Gambia. In 2017, her series Dwelling: in this space we breathe, which explores the migration of Gambian spiritual practices, was exhibited in the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. 

Aged 16, Saye earned a scholarship to attend the prestigious Rugby School, later completing a degree in Photography at UCA Farnham. Crowned, which was created in 2013, was consequently selected for the Discerning Eye competition, marking Saye’s first inclusion in a major exhibition. As its title suggests, the series explores the notion of regality and pride present in a black woman’s relationship to her hair, which, more than any other type of hair, has been submitted to immense societal pressures to conform to European beauty standards. In recent years, the natural hair movement has led to a reclamation of afro hairstyles which are rich in their heritage and history. In the same vein, Crowned is Saye’s ode to the beauty, artistry and symbolism present in these powerful hairstyles. Years later, she referred back to the production of the series on Twitter, stating, “This time 4 years ago, I was in the process of shooting my Crowned series with £0, just some black velvet with beautiful friends & family.”

It has been well documented that, shortly before her passing, Saye met with an influential gallery director who had seen her work, suggesting an artist on the cusp of international recognition. We are honoured to feature Crowned, which, as a series, indicates Saye’s voice as an artist, and speaks of identity, hope and pride in the possibilities of multicultural Britain.

Credits

Photography Khadija Saye
Words Emma de Clercq
Special thanks Rebecca King Lassman

See the full story only in INFRINGE ISSUE #3 HERE

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