Sometimes it takes one artist to recognize another artist for the art to elevate. That’s precisely what happened when Solange featured Shani Crowe‘s #unapologeticallymelanated visuals as part of her album “A Seat At The Table,” and wore an immaculate headpiece Crowe took 50-hours to assemble with more than 2,000 Swarovski crystals during an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” that aired November 2016.
However, the Chicago-based artist’s collaborations with Solange and her platform & record-label Saint Heron certainly isn’t where Crowe’s story begins.
Crowe, also a creator of ink illustrations, collages, plush items, and experimental videos, says she first learned how to braid as a child sitting at the feet of grandmother and cousins, eventually mastering her technique on her dolls’ heads. She tells Refinery 29, “When I was around 11, and my aunts couldn’t execute the designs I wanted, I began braiding [on] my own. I was a walking advertisement for myself, and ended up attracting clientele.”
Crowe’s work with Solange and her touring series “Braids” builds on a greater tradition that originates on the African continent, a magical art form birthed from the imaginations and fingertips of Black women that has been used to denote African identity and status from religion to kinship and ethnicity to age as well as communicate cultural values and social bonds between generations and among friends.
I want to show Black people for the gods that they are. Not that just Black people are gods, but I think everyone has a divine spark in them. I think that [divine spark is] not anywhere outside of yourself. Everyone has to start with the divine within and I really want to capture that with the braids that I do,” Crowe says.
While Crowe didn’t set out to blossom into an artist, “It just became that because I was really passionate about it,” she explains.
Check out Crowe’s fierce work below (it’s worth revisiting again and again) & FOLLOW her on IG @crowezilla:
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