Bringing African American culture to ceramics

15 Photos, 1 Video

Natural hair has always held a fascination for Murjoni Merriweather, who incorporates African American hairstyles – afros, braids, cornrows, puffballs -into her gracefully elongated ceramic figures. “I come from a majority black community so I base a lot of my art work around my own culture,” says Merriweather, 19, who resembles her creations. She is a sophomore in the ceramics program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).

Groupings of earth-toned female figures, and bisque-fired male figures form communities of their own in Merriweather’s MICA studio space as she works on a multi-armed female sculpture inspired by the Hindu Goddess Durga.

Raised in Temple Hills, a suburb of Washington, D.C., Merriweather says, “Hair’s been a big part of my life in general. My mom always used to do my hair. Every week she would braid my hair; put it in puff balls…”

Whereas the female figures are curvilinear, the bodies of Merriweather’s male sculptures are more angular. But both are either bald or sport full heads of hair. Merriweather rubs a strip of clay onto a bristled surface to create the textured design of a dreadlock, then places each dread onto the head of a male figure.

The young artist has been taking ceramics classes since 8th grade. When given an assignment to make vases, Merriweather couldn’t resist incorporating a head with natural hair as part of each vase design.

She reflects, “I feel as though just letting your hair grow naturally is…empowering…because you’re accepting yourself for who you are and how you were born.”

Merriweather will be participating in the upcoming MICA Art Market.