From Afro hair to Soul II Soul, exhibition celebrate’s Hackney’s black cultural history

Hackney’s “We Got Style!” Exhibition- Pic: Hackney Museum

For Rebecca Odell, seeing visitors connect with Hackney Museum’s latest exhibition on a personal level is one of the most rewarding things about the exhibition, which tells the cultural impact of Afro-Caribbean hair and fashion.

Odell, who manages Hackney Museum, said of visitors’ reactions to We’ve Got Style: “The response has been amazing! They clearly love the theme as it connects with them on a personal level. What is really great to see it that the exhibition encourages those who see it to tell their own stories, share their concerns, and understand how their experiences fit alongside others’.

The exhibition in celebration of Black History Month has already been a hit with the local community, with over 1,000 visits thus far.

Odell went on: “From memories about getting ready to go out at the weekend, a desire to see the vital cultural contribution of barbershops recognised, to hearing some of the challenges created by a widespread lack of knowledge about African-type hair – it was clearly a topic people wanted to talk about, so we had to listen!”

The aim of the showcase, she adds, is to “use our historic collections to encourage often under-represented voices to share their own experiences and memories”

The exhibit was developed with the voices of the Afro-Caribbean community being firmly heard, with an open event being held in May asking what local Afro-Caribbean residents wanted to see and felt should be included.

The exhibition’s highlights include, hair styling combs in different shapes and sizes, hair products, cosmetics, black fashion clothing such as gowns, suits and jackets and picture frames scattered on the walls.

When asked what her favourite part of the exhibition was, Odell replied: “I personally love the 1980s-1990s section where we explore the significance and different style tribes of the era, from the Hip-Hop influences and the local connections to breakdancing, to the impact of groups like Soul II Soul on fashion.”

One of the exhibition’s features the story of local entrepreneurs Lincoln Dyke and Dudley Dryden.

Odell said Hackney Museum have long wanted to explore the huge local story of Lincoln Dyke and Dudley Dryden, Britain’s first black millionaires, with this piece of local history being one of the main inspirations for the project.

Len Dyke and Dudley Dryden founded their business as a record stall in Ridley Road Market. Working alongside Tony Wade, they sold a variety of hair care products and cosmetics for the African and Caribbean community and shortly after opened their more stores in Tottenham and Birmingham.

The pair, had to overcome many challenges including insults, property damage, and banks refusing to loan them money but their success soon
made them become significant role models for African and Caribbean entrepreneurs in the UK.

The exhibit which will run until January 11 2020, with more details to be found on Hackney Council’s website.

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