KNOW YOUR ROOTS is a new project, generously funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, that used mixed media technology to develop art work that celebrates the beauty of black hair with young people from London schools and youth centres aged 11 to 25. Participants embarked on a super, kinky, curly exploration of the connections between heritage and hair. They were given the opportunity to sharpen their creative skills to produce a vibrant online exhibition celebrating the beauty of afro hair and the global influences of African hair styles within other ethnic groups. They recorded the relevance of hair to their heritage for the London Metropolitan Archives and thereby, have become part of London’s living history.


We recognise that young, black women are not one homogenous group. However, how skin colour and hair texture have been historically perceived and subsequently represented have affected enough people of African origin to warrant discussing the subject as a common concern and one that should be explored within the context of heritage, race and identity. The premise we are working from therefore, is that societal pressures and discriminatory practices have shaped how the (black) body is represented (Shilling, 1997).



Know Your Roots was open to any young person who wanted to participate, irrespective of their race or gender; however, putting young black women’s experiences at the centre of the work was a fundamental premise.


As well as using arts-based methodologies to explore the subject of black hair, participants were invited to conduct peer-led interviews where they shared the relevance of hair to their heritage. These will be deposited at the London Metropolitan Archives adding to public records on the lives of young people from the capital.