Origins of the Afro Comb: 6,000 years of culture, politics and identity

Origins of the Afrocomb

2 July – 28 September 2013,
South Lecture Room

Discover the extraordinary 6,000-year history of African hair combs in this joint exhibition between the Fitzwilliam Museum and Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, Cambridge.

Traditionally playing an important role in creating, maintaining and decorating hair-styles for both men and women, this exhibition traces forms and motifs of the afro comb over time and space, as the African Diaspora grew. Recent developments are explored with objects like the 20th century ‘black fist’ comb and an investigation of current hair-styling practices in Jamaica, bringing together archaeological and anthropological questions to tell the story of this vital cultural tradition.


My Hair poster

At the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology the story is brought to the present day with three connected contemporary art installations by artist and writer Michael McMillan called My Hair. The installations show the development of the global black hair industry, the politicising and popularisation of Afros and Dreadlocks, and bring to life the ‘Cottage Salon’ in the Home, The Barber Shop and The Hairdressing Salon. Explaining black hair culture, styling and politics as we know it today, the installations are complemented by a film showing different hands styling hair, and a series of soundbites, which can be heard by sitting under one of the hairdryers.

Visit the project website at, designed to include your contributions, whether you use afro combs today, are interested in the impact of hairstyling, or simply admire the combs as beautiful objects.

For further information on events accompanying this exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology and The Fitzwilliam Museum please visit our events page.

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