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Nneka Kai


Nneka Kai is an interdisciplinary artist from Atlanta, GA, with an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Fiber & Material Studies and a BFA in Textiles from Georgia State University. Currently, a long-term resident at Sculpture Space, Kai’s artistic practice centers on the question: What constitutes a free Black feminine form? This inquiry begins with Black hair as a material, concept, and practice. Through various disciplines, including fiber, sculpture, installation, and performance, Kai explores the nuances of embodied experiences, self-expression, and reclamation through abstraction. This approach integrates textile sensibilities, such as structure and tension, to reimagine connections to place, ancestry, and time. Kai's work questions how materiality and spatial arrangement can unveil new narratives that exist outside traditional definitions.

"Hair as Praxis" is an evolving methodology deeply rooted in the Black American experience, exploring the material culture, history, and legacy of Black hair. In this context, Praxis becomes a theory in real time. It prompts us to consider what Black hair accomplishes and how it enlightens us about ongoing narratives, self-perception, and interconnections with others. Beginning from its origins in African tribes, traversing through the traumas of the Middle Passage and enslavement, and adapting under colonialism and suppression, Black hair's evolution reflects its profound ability to transform. The act of braiding and intertwining strands under tension to create styles, figures, patterns, or convey meanings exemplifies this transformative power. Black hair challenges traditional notions of craft, art, and materiality, encouraging us to reconsider how we perceive, appreciate, and interpret its nature and resilience within societal frameworks. What my mother ingrained into me on those Sunday hair care rituals, "Nneka, I need your hair to last."- unveils a deeper communal and cultural significance. "Hair as Praxis" is the foundation for my art-making and creative expression, inspiring a journey that merges personal experiences with broader cultural narratives and historical continuities.

hair as ephemeral

hair as resistance

hair as community

hair as lasting

hair as fluidity

hair as my self-fashioning

hair as my link to my mother and my motherland

hair as communication

hair as understanding

hair as intimate 

hair as tool

......on going 

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