Slovenski etnografski muzej

28. November 2011
28. November 2011

Styled in Africa: African Hairdresser and Barbershop Signs

8 December 2011 -  26 February 2012

Itinerant Exhibition, Museum of African Art, Belgrade


The Museum of African Art in Belgrade was established in 1977 and soon began to exchange exhibitions with the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. This long tradition of cooperation continues with an exhibition of African Hairdresser and Barbershop Signs. The creator of the exhibition, Nataša Njegovanović Ristić, presents an everyday custom such as we rarely encounter in museums. This is a short narrative on hair, beards, moustaches and sideburns, on barbers and hairdressers. The specific content relates to wooden and metal signs decorated with stylised images of heads with different hairstyles. The purpose of these is to attract customers, who then point to the style they wish to have and then hope that something similar appears on their head.

The people of Africa are master hairdressers with a rich tradition that has its roots in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians knew that hair is not only a part of our external appearance. It also contains invisible divine strength, as can be seen in the famous Biblical story of Samson and Delilah. Hair contains a wide range of symbols and messages: it can harbour beauty or ugliness, joy and sadness, modesty and vanity, power and humility, passion and suppression. Hair contains the energy of life and the presentiment of death.

The exhibition contains eleven donated barber's and hairdresser's signs from Cameroon, Senegal and the Central African Republic, dating from the second half of the 20th century. There are also interesting colour photographs of the work of barbers and hairdressers whose portraits of styles and inventive, witty approach show their mastery of razor and scissors. They also know how to convince each and every customer that they can cut their hair in the latest styles, including those from outside Africa.  

The exhibition of hairdressing signs is accompanied by a selection of combs from the collection of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum.

Dr. Marko Frelih, Curator of the African and American Collections