This isn’t your average sleeked-back ponytail or hanging tresses. Laetitia Ky makes art, nay, sculptures with her hair. Interestingly, Ky isn’t a hairstylist. Rather, she’s a university graduate in commerce and administration who’s an aspiring fashion designer. This Ivorian artist hasn’t studied hair professionally. Nonetheless, when she started posting her masterpieces on Instagram in 2016, it was clear that Ky’s knack for hair is innate. From a bicycle, to hands playing guitar, Ky – who lives in Ivory Coast – can make her hair express any story.
Video journalist: Tamasin Ford
It started when she was five years old and her mother began to teach her how to braid her hair. She loved the practice so much that she would push her mother to constantly show her more on the subject. Flash forward a couple of years, and thanks to Instagram, she was introduced to an album that featured various hairdos women from ancient African communities used to adorn themselves with. This gave her the idea to use hair as a medium of expression.
Now this young artist in her early 20s churns out new concepts that she formulates using items such as wool, wire, needles, fabric and hair extensions. Each masterpiece can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours to complete; depending on the technicality level. Although she’s inspired by the world around her, remarkably, a lot of her ideas are generated spontaneously. Yet they portray a range of ideas, from playful to emotive.
Nevertheless, there are instances where she is very intentional with her hair projects. One of her most famous examples was her contribution to the #MeToo campaign. She created a piece which depicted a man lifting and peaking under a woman’s skirt. According to Elle magazine, Ky incorporated the caption along with her post, “NOTHING JUSTIFIES RAPE, SEXUAL ASSAULT OR HARASSMENT… Speak out because you don’t have to carry this burden alone, talk to help other women who are afraid, talk to start a revolution, talk to change things.” She then encouraged any of her followers who wanted to share their truths with her to do so through her direct message (DM) as a cathartic release. While Ky is a feminist, she believes that everyone needs to get involved with ending violence against women; especially since the fabric of society is so interwoven that these issues impact us all.
Another aspect that is intentional is the feeling people derive from her work. In an interview with Allure, Ky elaborates, I want to encourage people to express themselves, to explore their creativity, to not be afraid to be who they are,” she says. “I want to show that being different is beautiful and it doesn’t only attract bad reactions.” For many women in Africa, they were raised with Western standards of beauty that led them to believe that their hair was undesirable and needed to be tamed. However, with movements such as the Natural Hair renaissance that is currently happening around the world, more women of colour are beginning to celebrate their natural roots.
Her initiative to highlight black beauty didn’t stop there. She also incorporates a photo series on her Instagram page encouraging body positivity. For example, her creation that was designed to draw the viewers attention to armpit hair, as well as, the curves of the body. Overall, the response to her hair sculptures have been overwhelmingly positive. However, there are some negative responses. From people questioning why she exerts so much energy and time to create pieces that aren’t practical for everyday wear. There are also those who have tried to associate her work with ‘witchcraft’. But she doesn’t let that deter her and she continues to strive in spreading positivity and empowerment.
While she shows her activist side, she certainly still lets her playful and humours side show. From the bunny ears and teacup, to her art depicting her love for Fenty, Rihanna’s beauty line. Whether it’s speaking on serious issues or expressing her art, the eclectic styles she fashions natural hair that reaches a multitude to motivate and uplift. For more of her gravity-defying work of art, head to her social media pages linked below.