ADEBUNMI GBADEBO – HISTORY PAPER PORTRAITS
History Paper Series: “In this series I take human hair and break it down into pulp, forcing it to take on a new identity foreign to its natural textured properties of human hair. The pulp is then formed into thin stiff sheets of paper. Finishing the process I silk screen images of relatives born in the 19th and early 20th century into the surface of the hair sheets. In this process I construct two sets of documents. Not only does the sheet act as an abstract document holding the DNA and history of those people the hair once grew from, but I am bringing forth the images from my family line. Printing self on self.”
Adebunmi Gbadebo, Artist
Visual artist Adebunmi Gbadebo creates remarkable sculptures, paintings, prints and paper using human hair sourced from people of the African diaspora. Rejecting traditional art materials, Adebunmi saw hair as a means to centre her people and their histories as central to the narratives in her work. Born in New Jersey and based in Newark, Adebunmi first gained recognition in 2015 exhibiting in her first solo exhibition at eh Paul Robeson Gallery at Rutgers University, Newark, NJ while earning a BFA at the School of Visual Arts, NY.
I had the pleasure of meeting Adebunmi at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London in 2019 where I was fortunate to hear some of her story. Working with hair sourced from people of the African diaspora provided an opportunity to reject the traditional narrative and materials associated with contemporary art and instead use materials and build narratives around her culture and people that looked like her. Human hair from people of the African diaspora is so intrinsically connected to culture, politics and history with many pieces from time to time evoking feelings leading to conversations that link back to African American history in the USA and further a field. Working with this material of choice provides an opportunity to involve community locals such as barbershops and hair salons with hair also being donated by individuals.
Adebunmi is in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Her exhibitions include Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh; 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis; Untitled Art Fair, Miami; Chashama, New York; Morris Art Dodge Foundation, New Jersey; College of Saint Elizabeth, New Jersey; amongst others. She has also been written about in various publications including the New York Times, Hypebeast and Afropunk. Also broadcasted on BBC Newsday, Talk TV (Nigeria) and given talks at the Museum of the African Diaspora amongst others.
To learn more about Adebunmi Gbadebo and her amazing artwork, please visit: