On last night's episode of Saturday Night Live, Solange took the stage for her performance of "Cranes in the Sky" donning a glittery hairpiece that radiated from her head in a wheel pattern. The artist behind Solange's ethereal hairdo is Chicago native Shani Crowe, who has been braiding hair since she was 11. Today, Crowe continues to make intricate hair designs for black women that resemble headdresses, crowns, and halos.
Crowe's hair artworks has now been featured in three solo exhibitions in Chicago. An work entitled "Fingerwave Saint" from Crowe's most recent series BRAIDS was Solange's main inspiration for the braided Halo look, Crowe explains in an email to The FADER.
"[Solange] expressed that she wanted to add Swarovski beads for a highly reflective look, and sent some images of bedazzled clothing she was inspired by," Crowe writes. "I worked within those parameters and started to create the piece. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and working with Solange was a dream. I respect her immensely!"
Crowe also explains that "the Halo is made from over a hundred feet of braided hair layered and wrapped around an armature. It is strung with around 2,000 Swarovski crystal beads in three sizes, two colors, and two shapes." Including braiding the cornrows on Solange, Crowe says that the creation took nearly 50 hours in total to make. She assures us that the hairpiece was "100% hand made with love."
Not only are Crowe's works aesthetically mesmerizing, they serve to continue the tradition of braiding that is engrained in black culture and beauty. "Braiding is a sacred art in a lot of ways because it’s so rich in tradition—a lot of times we don’t really understand how much it means," Crowe tells Fusion in a recent interview. "Because [braids] are coming out in pop culture and being exploited as a trend in the fashion scene, I think it’s important for me to honor them, before there’s a time when people don’t even remember them as a traditional black art."
View more of Shani Crowe's works on her website and below. Revisit Solange's Saturday Night Live performances here.