Wild, Intricate Sculptures — Made Out of My Hair | Laetitia Ky | TED
Laetitia Ky grew up in Ivory Coast longing for straight hair, like many African children. After a traumatic incident with her hair at 16, she decided to go back to her natural hair, and at 18, she came across a photo album showing the intricate hairstyles of African women in pre-colonial society, inspiring her to see her hair differently. This revelation led her to experiment with her own hair, using it as a medium to create wild, intricate sculptures.
Originally creating sculptures for their aesthetic appeal, Ky was encouraged by the positive feedback she received online to push her limits and create more complex designs. Over the years, she has made hundreds of sculptures, ranging from animals and random objects to portraits, fashion accessories, and even zodiac-inspired hairstyles. The process involves creating a sketch, using her natural hair and hair extensions, and shaping the sculpture around wire.
Ky’s sculptures took on a deeper meaning in 2018 when she noticed the impact her work had on black women, helping them feel better about their hair and their Blackness. This discovery led her to use her hair sculptures as a platform to advocate for the equity of sexes, addressing a wide range of topics including bodily autonomy, self-love, body hair, education for women, and more.
Through her sculptures, Ky aims to empower women and encourage them to embrace their bodies and intellect without shame. Her journey from not being encouraged to love herself to becoming her own advocate has given her the strength to share her stories and advocate for change through her hair sculptures.
Watch the video by TED
I was born and I grew up in Ivory Coast, and like so many other African kids, I used to resent my Blackness, including my hair. I longed for straight hair that could be easily managed and brushed. After years of using hair relaxer,
I went back to natural hair at 16 after an incident with my hair that forced me to shave and start over, and it was a very hard new beginning. But at 18, while I was still in the process of learning how to love my natural hair, I came across a photo album
Showing the hair of African women in pre-colonial society, and I was instantly inspired. Seeing that photo album was so powerful to me. It made me see hair completely differently. Not just as a beauty tool, but as a way to communicate and to tell stories about who we are.
And immediately, I started to experiment with my own hair. I wanted to see what I was able to create. And today I’m an artist and hair sculpting is one of my media. I use my hair to advocate for what I believe in, particularly for issues that affect women and girls. But it didn’t start that way. At the beginning, I was just doing beautiful shapes for the aesthetic aspects. I started with doing simple geometrical shapes just for the beauty of it,
And when I was posting those shapes online, I was receiving so much love that it encouraged me to push my limit to create more complex sculpture. From 2017 when I first started until now, I’ve made hundreds of sculptures. Some can be playful, others can be very serious.
So here are just a few examples of what I can do with my hair. Animals. Random things, like an umbrella or car. Portraits. Audience: Wow! Text, like here where I write “perfect” with my hair because I do believe my hair is perfect. Cartoon. Sunflowers. Fashion accessories. Wings. Even zodiac-inspired hairstyle because my rising sign is Scorpio. I’m another astrology freak. Medusa and even body parts. Thanks. The process to make the sculpture is actually pretty simple. The idea comes to my head, I do a little sketch and then I just sculpt, using my natural hair, some hair extension and wire. I just wrap the braid around the wire,
And then it’s very easy for me to shape as I want. And in general, you know, to make the sculpture being able to stand on top of my head, the base needs to be extremely tight. So if you’re wondering, is it hurtful? Yes. Yes it is. But this is why, in general, I quickly undo it after the photo shoot. Most of the time I will take the picture by myself, but when I need help, my little sister, Florencia, who is the most supportive person on the planet, will help me.
And depending on what I want to create, a sculpture can take me from five minutes to more than three, four or five hours. When I started to create, I was just doing, as I said before, for the beauty of it, no meanings. But it changed in 2018
When one of my photo series went completely viral. It was this one. I shaped my hair as a second pair of hands, very playful, in various configurations, and I started to receive a lot of messages from Black women around the world telling me that seeing my hair helped them to feel better
About their hair, about their Blackness. And I realized, OK, actually, what I’m doing is pretty powerful. So maybe it can just serve a greater purpose and I can use it to advocate for change. So I decided to use my hair as a platform to advocate for the equity of sexes.
Why this specific subject, you may ask? Because I was born and I grew up in an environment that normalized the bad treatment of women. I have my experience, many women have their experience, so it touched me a lot. And when it comes to equality of sexes, I touch a lot of different subjects.
Unfortunately, I can’t share all of them with you. I can just give you today a glimpse of it. Bodily autonomy and self-love is very important for me. I went myself into a long process towards self love. Coming from a place where I used to dislike everything about myself
To a place where I just love everything. So I love to inspire myself — So I love to inspire myself from our female body to create sculpture and shapes that are associated with uplifting words to empower those who need it. And with this sculpture, what I want to do is to encourage women to have agency over their body,
But also to destigmatize all the classic taboos around our bodies, like, for example, periods. Aging, disabilities and much more. This sculpture, for example, was to — Was to address the big taboo of body hair on women. When I was 15, I posted a photograph of me on social media without realizing that my armpit hair was visible and immediately, the comments were wild. “This is disgusting.” “Go shave.” “Ew, I can buy you a razor if you want.”
I was traumatized, so I deleted the picture and after that I started to shave way more regularly. Even if, for me, it’s a very uncomfortable routine. It took me years to be able to love my body the way it is and to embrace everything, including my body hair.
Besides all the topics related to bodies, I love to also address topics related to our intellect as women, because this world doesn’t only encourage women to dislike the body, but also encourages women to dislike what they have inside. And I think just as we’re supposed to love our bodies,
We’re supposed to also own our hopes, dreams, our ideas or opinion without shame. And for that, I think — And for that I think education is extremely important. This is why I did this sculpture. Unfortunately, in Ivory Coast, many women still can’t read. When I was a child, many women were working at our home as nannies. They weren’t educated. They would ask me to read the text messages because they couldn’t. In rural Ivory Coast, many parents think that it’s useless to put a girl in school
Because they are better at home learning how to cook or to take care of of the home for their future husbands. But when it comes to their son, they are allowed to have an education. So most of the time those women will end up marrying older men,
And when those men abandon them, they are left with nothing, with very few career options, because they are not educated. And to me, this is revolting. Growing up in an environment where I wasn’t always encouraged to love who I was, my journey has been about becoming my own friend and advocate. And when I embraced the capacity I have to share my stories and the ones of others, I found the strength to advocate for what I believe in
Through my hair. Thank you.
The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more. You’re welcome to link to or embed these videos, forward them to others and share these ideas with people you know.
Video “Wild, Intricate Sculptures — Made Out of My Hair | Laetitia Ky | TED” was uploaded on 02/06/2024 to Youtube Channel TED