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Ginormous afro pick, jail cell featured in exhibition to highlight social change through the arts

The sculpture by Hank Willis Thomas, decorated with a peace sign and a clenched Black fist, is titled “All Power to All People.”

An enormous Afro hair pick sculpture by artist Hank Willis Thomas has been erected in Lafayette Square in New Orleans to help foster racial and political awareness and activism. 

The pick, courtesy of Kindred Arts, is decorated with a peace sign and a clenched Black fist. Titled “All Power to All People,” it serves as an homage to the Black Power movement of the 1970s, nola.com reports. On Twitter Friday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell called the structure “Breathtaking.”

Hank Willis Thomas’ Afro pick sculpture titled “All Power to All People,” on display above in Los Angeles, serves as an homage to the Black Power movement of the 1970s. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube/LA This Week)

The Afro hair pick sculpture sits prominently near Gallier Hall, New Orleans’ former City Hall. Per the report, it is part of the Kindred Arts’ traveling Monumental Tour, an event that showcases large-scale outdoor works by Black artists. 

“This sculpture is very fitting for this time and place,” a Cantrell administration spokesperson wrote in an email about Thomas’ art. 

Breathtaking💥❤️💚💛🖤 pic.twitter.com/gpHmzfvd1J

— Mayor LaToya Cantrell (@mayorcantrell) June 17, 2022

“This piece serves to highlight ideas related to community, strength, perseverance, comradeship, and resistance to oppression,” the project’s website reads. The black fist pick was originally a hairstyle accessory that “represented counterculture and civil rights during one of the most important eras of American history.”

“Public monuments have a higher charge now. They can celebrate a specific individual, or a group of people, but they should also invite a broader conversation about how memorial can connect to the rest of the world and represent its people,” Thomas said in a statement on the Monumental Tour’s website.

“All Power to All People” was previously on display in Los Angeles behind Kindred Arts’ Marsha Reid. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube/LA This Week)

 “The piece offers an opportunity to reflect on a storied culture and a 6,000 year history of the artifact and of grooming culture,” reads a statement on the Kindred Arts website about Thomas’ piece.

“The fight and struggle for equality, respect and freedom continue to this day for those of us who continue to be discriminated against because of the color of our skin and the texture and style of our hair,” Cantrell’s spokesperson added in the email.

Other exhibits on the Monumental Tour include “Kalief Browder: The Box,” by Coby Kennedy, a conceptual piece featuring a transparent jail cell on display in Lafayette Square on the Camp Street side, and “Caliban’s Hands,” by Christopher Myers, a metal sculpture of giant hands, located at Baldwin and Co. bookstore.

The exhibition arrived in New Orleans just in time for the Juneteenth celebrations this past weekend. The three pieces will be on display through the 2022 Essence Fest, which runs from Thursday, June 30, to Sunday, July 3. The exhibition will depart on Tuesday, July 12, for the next stop on the tour.

According to the report, the New Orleans Office of Cultural Economy, the Essence Festival of Culture and the Kindred Arts organization provided the three sculptures to the city.

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