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19th Ave New York, NY 95822, USA
Black Rice
by Inyang Essien


Rice was braided into the hair of African women to serve as sustenance on their way to enslavement. The hairstyle—cornrows—hid rice and even seeds as they traveled with no belongings through the Middle Passage. During slave rebellions, this technique was revisited by women of the Maroons of Suriname to ensure that they would have food to grow when they escaped to the rainforest.

Through this series, I sought to showcase how the enslaved were able to transcend conditions designed to strip them of even the most basic of necessities. The secret held by their hair was powerful enough to determine life or death. I saw this segment of history as a tale of strength as opposed to one of suffrage.

The series Black Rice aims to visualize this pivotal piece of Black history.