Shani Crowe’s ‘Braids’ Photo Series Celebrates The Art, Tradition Of Black Hair

Fingerwave Saint, Braids, 2016.

Photo Credit: Shani Crowe

Hairstylist Shani Crowe is giving us life with her new hair-centric portrait series, ‘Braids’. The stunning black-and-white portrait series features images of black women wearing intricate cornrowed designs created by Crowe that conjure royal headdresses, halos and other historical images.

The braided hairstyles themselves involved a creative mix of yarn, extension, wire, beads and cowrie shells to form the looks. One style even required 12 hours of work over the course of two days.

“I really love the idea of making women that I know look regal, as regal as they are in real life,” Crowe told Fusion in a recent interview.


The 27-year-old Chicago creative has been braiding hair since she was 11 and first dreamed up the idea for her art show at age 12. After teaming with arts nonprofit 3Arts, her vision is now a reality. Not only did she handpick the models herself, she also shot and edited the entire project to honor the tradition of black hairstyles.

“Braiding is a sacred art in a lot of ways because it’s so rich in tradition[…] [Braids] are coming out in pop culture and being exploited as a trend in the fashion scene, I think it’s important for me to honor them, before there’s a time when people don’t even remember them as a traditional black art.”

She continued:

“Plenty of cultures do their own braid styling, but African braiding has its own very long chapter in the history of braiding. I felt charged to make them tangible in a way where I could create an icon that honors my experience with braiding, my love for my clients and a celebration of black feminine beauty coiffeur in my own words, in my own images outside of magazines.”

‘Braids’ is on exhibit through the end of the month at 1932 S. Halstead Street in Chicago. Click through to see more images from the series.

Pictured above: Fingerwave Saint, Braids, 2016.

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About The Author

Stephenetta (isis) Harmon

isis is a music, hair and communications junkie. founder of Sadiaa and editor for HypeHair.com.