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News | Published: Fri 8 Jun 2012

ImageFitzwilliam looking for participants in 2013 exhibition

Members of the public are being invited to take part in a major community project leading to a new 2013 exhibition looking at the 5000 year history of the iconic Afro Comb.

To contribute to the exhibition the Museum will be running events in Cambridge and London to record people talking about their own stories, photographs and personal histories. The film and audio footage will become part of a new archive so future generations can see what people today have to say about hair and what kind of combs are used.

The final exhibition will trace the remarkable history of the African comb from the Pre-dynastic period of Egypt to the Twentieth century in the UK and US, including the personal testimonies collected.

The first event launching the project is being held at the Fitzwilliam Museum on Saturday 16 June 2012, displaying beautifully ornamented African combs from 6000 to 100 years old carved from wood or woven with delicate patterns.

For more details of this event and to take part please contact 01223 332904 or email fitzmuseum-education@lists.cam.ac.uk. Admission to the event is free.

This is a shared project between the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, and The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London. It is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Afro Comb:

Hair and grooming have always played an important role in the culture of Africa and the African Diaspora. The traditional African comb has played a crucial role in the creation, maintenance, and decoration of hair-styles for both men and women.

In many African societies, ancient and modern, the hair comb symbolises status, group affiliation, and religious beliefs, and is encoded with ritual properties. The handles of combs are decorated with objects of status, such as the headrest, human figures, and motifs that reference nature and the traditional spiritual world.

In the twentieth century ‘afro’ combs have taken on a wider political and cultural message, perhaps most notably in the form of the ‘black fist’ comb that references the Black power salute.

By looking at archaeological records of burials, and through recording oral histories in modern societies it is hoped the exhibition will provide a much better understanding of the status of this iconic object and the spiritual and societal status it can hold.

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