This experience is inspired by an African artefact used by native tribes for detangling and styling Afro hair. In many African cultures, hair is seen as a pathway to the soul because it is the highest point on the body, therefore hair care is only trusted to one particular family member or very close friend for the rest of your life, this is because if your hair gets into the wrong person’s hands, they could essentially cause you great harm.
This experience takes you back to the roots of hair, taking you on a journey through a traditional native hut, learning as you go of the significance of the Afro comb, making a fully interactive experience as you select a style card and create your own hair braid as you work your way through the tangled maze, essentially untangling yourself as you go, and giving you a tangible keepsake to remember the Crowning Glory experience.
Afro Comb – A Brief History
There is a limited knowledge about this specific object, it is believed to have come from Egypt and dates back to the 16th – 21st dynasty, 1070 – 525 BCE and it was given to the British Museum by the Revd Greville John Chester in 1887. Made from wood, it stands at 16.3cm high by 8cm deep, 1.1cm wide and it weighs 20 grams.
In African culture, different tribes are represented by unique decorative figures, in this case the horse, being quite high up within the hierarchy, represents power, closeness to nature with a strong connection to the earth, respect for the environment and is an emblem of freedom. A horse is a very honorable animal and one would be considered very wealthy to own such a beast and it has an inward and outward beauty.
The Importance of Hair
In all cultures, hair is important. It is said that someone will make a judgment about you within a few seconds of meeting you based upon your appearance, manor and body language. Your hair is a statement about you, who you are and can take on many personas. It can look wild, wacky, fun, professional, business-like, sleek, smooth, crazy, party animal, wicked, severe, wonderful, sexy, angry or punky. Your hair, your choice.
In African culture, hair is significantly linked to The Black Power Movement. This movement was prominent in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and came about during the Civil Rights Movement. It gave all citizens rights to political and social freedom of equality, especially in connection with the rights and political power for black people. Developing from this came the saying ‘Black is Beautiful’ which was largely responsible for the popularity of the Afro, all in all it was a significant cultural and political revolution.
Crowning Glory – Floor Plan and Technology
The walls of the experience are interactive, in that they have LEDs highlighting elements of African nature, such as giraffes, elephants, zebras and trees. A soundtrack of African animal sounds and tribal rhythms also accompanies the experience, taking the audience back to African roots. All the textures and materials used have a natural feel, thus making the whole experience sensory.
Crowning Glory – The Message
As the audience moves through the experience, they will learn about the history and the culture of African hair, making as they go their very own African hair braid. This will appeal to a wide audience as everybody can get as involved as they wish to be and will leave the experience with a wider knowledge of the significance of hair in African culture.
From my ideas, I then built a model to show what my experience is going to look like.
The audience will enter into the African hut where they will learn about the Afro Comb, they will then exit the hut and have to find their way out of the maze.
The technology in my experience will have interactive walls with moving animals, just like the technology used for the interactive wall in Great Ormond Street hospital, there will also be things along the way for the audience to interact with. My experience is about untangling yourself from the maze and finding a clear path to the exit, just like the Afro comb is used to untangle hair.
Here are a few other examples of interactive museum displays that I felt could influence the technology within my experience.
This website has a list of different interactive experiences. They are aimed at a wide range of audiences yet all convey an important message to their audiences through the use of new, creative and fun technologies, my favourite one is The BugWorld Experience.
The BugWorld Experience.
It is aimed at children and takes them on an immersive journey seen through the eyes of a bug. Visitors move through recreated habitats which allows for a change of pace and mood, live specimens are included and areas where children can interact and learn about the bugs and the conservation programme.
Helmand, The Soldier’s Story
This experience was designed for the National Army Museum in London, covering the Army’s present involvement in Afghanistan. The experience allows the audience to feel and gain an understanding into the lives of active soldiers and their daily duties. It includes real life items as exhibits, for example, sandbags for housing, an accommodation tent with sleeping bunks, mortar pits, medical hut and parachute drop supplies.
Deep Sea Room
This experience is about the beauty of jellyfish, it’s a 3D experience which uses light, projections, architecture and human interactions to work. Visitors approach the walls, move around and walk away the amount of jellyfish will increase and decrease, the blue colours create a natural, calm and real life experience.
21 Balancoires (21 Swings)
Video Link – http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59250551320248023/
This video is of an installation that offers a fresh look at the idea of cooperation, the belief that we can achieve more working together than we can alone. The result in this video is a giant musical instrument made of 21 interactive swings. While each swing triggers its own set of individual notes, some melodies only emerge from cooperation.
Video Link – https://vimeo.com/54882144
This is an interactive installation that uses a stretched sheet of spandex which acts as a membrane interface that is sensitive to depth that people can push into and create fire like visuals and expressively play music.
I have found a selection of hair exhibitions from around the world that relate either to barber shops, afro combs and natural hair. I feel that these could help inspire me to create a suitable experience for my audience.
Art Watch – Exhibition in Paris – The Art of Hair: Frivolities and Trophies
Slideshow of hair on display link – http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2012/09/25/arts/design/20120919HAIR.html?_r=0
United Kinkdom – List of Seminars relating to Afro Hair.
Museum of Childhood – Afro Supa Hero
My Hair is at MoMA PS1
Thinking About Museums – Design Experience
This is a review of the Cleveland Museum of Art and how effective interactive exhibits within museums are. There are a wide range of interactive displays that have been designed for different target audiences. They allow the user to get involved with the art or topic and learn something about the object in question whilst having fun.
Video Link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWJqd6lyJ-E#t=80