Naïka Deluy-Garwood Shaves Her Head and Turns the Moment Into Art
Reclaiming Self-Identity With a Haircut at the VAV in “Hyper Real”
Two small television sets sit parallel to each other, looping a video of visual artist Naïka Deluy-Garwood, shaving her head.
The screens frame two angles of her process simultaneously: one facing frontwards, allowing the viewer to see her quiet expression, and one overhead, showing the overwhelming accumulation of curly hair that gathers with each stroke.
Deluy-Garwood’s artwork sits in the far right hand corner of the Visual Arts Visuels’ current exhibit Hyper Real: Black History Exhibition and Event Series, behind a dark curtain.
Her piece entitled People Would Kill for Hair Like Yours is accompanied by two headphones—one for each tv set, that emanates the sounds of the sharp snips from the scissors she used and the buzz of the razor.
In that captured moment, which she shot herself, the painting and drawing student drastically cut her hair for the first time in her life. Deluy-Garwood described the act as much more than a simple hair cut.
“That’s 20 years of hair all gone in 15 minutes,” Deluy-Garwood explained. “This work was really about reclaiming myself and reclaiming my identity, because so much had been attached to my hair […] There was a real weight to my hair, and being able to remove it, I was able to feel myself for once.”
“I kind of felt like my hair was my baggage,” she continued. “When I was a kid, […] strangers would come up to me and ask to touch my hair, or some wouldn’t even ask at all. That kind of like set the tone, my hair was just a part of me that people would notice right away, and would kind of classify me, or declassify me, with that attribute.”
Deluy-Garwood went on to say that she’s had past boyfriends tell her how to wear her hair. She described being influenced by them and by friends, who she explained were mostly “white girls” from the West Island, to straighten her hair.
“Even the ones closest to me made me feel like this part of me was a separate entity. […] [Straightening my hair] is really bad for me and my hair as well, just damaging it.”
“I feel like life and art are just mirrors to each other. I see an experience, a traumatic experience, [and] for me I need to deal with that by making an art work. For clarity, for introspection, I need to be able to put into a physical form as a document of that time.” — Naïka Deluy-Garwood
Using her laptop as a mirror and as one of the cameras to record herself for the piece, she explained to The Link that she decided to cut off all of her hair because she got to a point in her life where she outgrew being influenced by others.
“I really wanted to reclaim my own identity, and be my own person, as opposed to having this thing that just kept coming back. I just cut it all off, and it felt like it was really necessary.”
“I feel like life and art are just mirrors to each other,” Deluy-Garwood said. “I see an experience, a traumatic experience, [and] for me I need to deal with that by making an art work. For clarity, for introspection, I need to be able to put into a physical form as a document of that time.”
Her piece and the act of shaving her head has to do with her struggle with her identity, and not knowing where to situate herself, as she is mixed race.
“I wouldn’t call myself Black, because my struggle is not the struggle of someone who is Black, my struggle is that of someone who is half-Black,” Deluy-Garwood explained.
She said that people tell her that she must have a side that she prefers, or a side that she identifies more with. “ I don’t understand how anyone could view that, […] I’m a whole person.”
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“[All] the stuff that had been projected onto me [was attached to my hair], [it wasn’t] necessarily what I felt,” Deluy-Garwood continued. “[…]The influence other people had onto [me] was all contained in my hair.”
At the end of the video, all of the hair that she shaved is transformed into a braid. She has also braided all of her hair from her big chop into a 13 foot long braid as a performance. “I kept my hair, and it became a tool for one of my performance pieces as well. I removed it from myself, but I use it still as an extension in my work. It’s better to me off of me. […] It stays with me no matter what.”
Deluy-Garwood decided to keep her hair because, as she puts it, “you can’t really escape. I mentioned a kind of weight to it right—you need to acknowledge the weight that was once there, and you need to hold onto it as a reference, as a tool, to equip yourself for the future and what’s to come. I hold on to my trauma and my memories with this hair.”
Now that she cut off all her hair, Deluy-Garwood said that feels different. “I feel a lot better, I feel the most ‘Naïka’ I’ve ever been, the most myself I’ve ever been. I recommend doing what you feel you need to do in order to grow. That’s what this was, something I needed to do.”
To check out more of the art exhibited at Hyper Real , go to the VAV gallery on 1395 René-Lévesque Blvd W., between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., Monday to Friday until Nov. 30.
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