2020 Hellman Fellow
Assistant Professor; Arts
UC Santa Cruz
Project Title: Open Source Afro Hair Library
Project Description: Currently, there is limited representation of Black people in games and digital media. In real life, natural Black hair is considered a liability in academic and professional settings, with Black people being subject to loss of employment, school suspension, or even having their hair forcibly removed before being allowed to compete as athletes. Across digital media, accurate and diverse depictions of Black hairstyles and textures are generally confined to NBA sports video games, but even that representation is only of Black male players. Outside of these basketball video games, Black people, regardless of gender, are often portrayed in ways that are derogatory, inaccurate, stereotypical, demeaning, and otherwise harmful–if they are depicted at all.
The Hellman Fellowship will support the development of a feminist, anti-racist resource for digital artists and 3D content creators. My project, the Open Source Afro Hair Library, is an open source, easy to use, highly curated, 3D model database of Black hairstyles and textures. Functioning as both art practice and technological development, the Open Source Afro Hair Library seeks to address the lack of thoughtful representation of Blackness in games, virtual/augmented reality, and other 3D media. By ensuring that the Afro Hair Library is free and open source, we can have a broad impact on relevant industries and ecosystems by lowering the barrier for all creators–both hobbyists and professionals–to integrate accurate, diverse, and respectful representations of Blackness in digital media.