Balisier and Braids
Artist: Afi Browne
While it was such an enormous task to distill my creation story into one pattern, a number of motifs and images came to mind about my childhood, my hair journey and the rich natural splendour of my homeland Trinidad and Tobago. My mother is an avid gardener, and we were blessed to have a large orchard and vegetable garden in our backyard back home. I would spend hours in a Starch Mango tree reading, with juicy snacks, just in arms reach. The natural flora I love and miss are represented by the mangoes at the centre and my favourite flower, the balisier (bal-e-zay).
My hair journey was a bit more tumultuous but has thankfully brought me to the place I am now. I grew up in a culture that saw straight hair to be more professional, more aesthetically pleasing. But the chemicals used to achieve this process burned my scalp and I would literally be crying from the pain in salons for hours. I am grateful that I have been able to reclaim my time, my edges and my heritage wearing my hair naturally. This is represented by the braids, bobby pins, afro picks and cowrie shells.
About the Artist
Afi Browne (they|them pronouns)
Working towards liberation for Black, queer, trans people and for folks at these and multiple intersections is an integral part of Afi Browne's life. They are a Black, Trini settler, queer, non-binary, multi-disciplinary artist and community worker who is committed to social justice. Afi is most passionate about integrating the arts with their community work as the arts can be used to bring about healing in individuals and communities. In their personal art practice, they are primarily a jeweller, using recycled materials to make Afro-futuristic pieces. Afi is also a costume designer, vocalist and performer. They have been the recipient of many arts grants to further their work such as from CUE, The Toronto Arts Council and The Ontario Arts Council. They were the founder and program manager of Krafty Queers, an initiative that was awarded the LGBT YouthLine award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts and Culture in 2016. They have been a youth worker for the past 11 years, currently working at Central Toronto Youth Services as the coordinator of R.I.T.E.S., a program for Black youth which seeks to explore Black identity build and foster resilience.