For Shani Crowe, Braiding Is A Sacred Art


Shani Crowe’s first solo show Braids opened in 2016, but the idea came to her at age 12. The Chicago native had already established herself a sought-after local braider who dreamed of parlaying her work into an exhibition some day. Fifteen years later, Crowe’s 10-piece braided portrait series came to fruition, debuting April 2016 at the Fountain Head lofts in Chicago. Soon after, Solange enlisted Crowe to create her performance look for Saturday Night Live, a Swarovski halo with 100 feet of braided hair that took an estimated 50 hours to complete. Crowe’s first editorial collaboration was with ELLE for the June 2017 issue. “The style that I created was especially nostalgic because I used to wear my hair that way as a kid,” Crowe remembers. Despite the proliferation of braiding by those who are ignorant to the historical and cultural significance, “Most of the braids that I see now are coming from black women,” she says. “The number of black women that are into braids and natural hair right now outweighs the feeble, trendy, reaching-for-a-gimmick type of deal. It’s power in numbers.” Here, Crowe looks back at some of her most impactful braid moments.



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