"IT WASN'T UNTIL MY THIRTIES THAT I SAW MY ACTUAL NATURAL HAIR FOR THE FIRST TIME."
- Allana Clarke
Allana grew up transfixed by magic. The artist watched women in her life shapeshift with the help of jams, jellies, and glues.
“I didn’t really question it at the time because it’s like every woman around me had extensions,” she told ESSENCE.
She accepted “that idea that you have to change something about yourself or transform yourself” without question. “They were beautiful,” she added.
Sacrifices made to enhance that beauty seemed a natural part of coming of age to Clarke as a child. The singe of the hot comb, the tension of the yanking, the irritation from the glue, the scorching of the relaxer, it was all normal.
Now, after growing up to be an accomplished artist, she is revisiting the beauty rituals she observed in childhood by crafting sculptures out of the type of weave-bonding glue that has blocked pores and damaged follicles for generations. Clarke has a history of using materials she has a personal connection to.
Her current show, titled Allana Clarke: I Feel Everything, speaks to tender heads across the globe.
Her practice is inspired by “traumatic memories around hair and Black beauty standards.” Some of those memories are collective. Others are deeply personal.