In 2019 Artnet called Laetitia Ky “the Picasso of Ponytails”—since then a lot has changed.
In 2022 Laetitia Ky is way more than that.
The 26-year-old Ivory Coast artist Laetitia Ky made the jump from being a fascinating social media appearance to an activist and published writer.
Laetitia makes sculptures or more accurately art using her hair. She is the moment, the emotion and the message of her own creations, raising awareness about sexism, race, injustice and even abortion. No topic seems to be a taboo.
This aim for equality aligns as well with one of the main targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Reduced Inequalities within and among countries.
However, while her work is timeless, her art piece itself is ephemeral, as it only exists for a certain period of time on her own head. On her TikTok, you can even see the full process of creating her sculptures, which she shares with her 6.2 million followers on a daily basis. Looking at the stunning results you could think Ky’s work needs a lot of gimmicks and technological effort, but the opposite is the case. Ky just simply links hair extensions directly to her own natural Afro and mounds them into the shape she wants them to be.
While her TikTok appearance is more focused on fun content, for example, letting her friends draw a certain hairstyle she is going to create, her Instagram posts are picking a more serious tone. Addressing injustice and especially picking up political debates, and not only exhibiting her hair sculptures but also her own paintings.
Her recent published book, Love and Justice: A Journey of Empowerment, Activism and Embracing Black Beauty, is a praise for feminism and especially accepting and embracing her heritage and natural looks. As she, in a recent interview with the The Guardian, explained:
“Appreciating my hair let me appreciate other things that made me Black. Like my skin. I’m very dark-skinned and the beautiful Ivorian woman is supposed to be light-skinned. When I started to love my hair, I started to love my skin, and I started to love the fact that I was Black. And when I started to love the fact that I was Black, it helped me to love the fact that I was a woman. Loving one thing led me to love another thing.”
But she also explains that this path to self love and acceptance was accompanied by mental health issues like binge eating and lack of confidence with her appearance, until she felt confident enough to spread her very important message.
Furthermore, like any other activist or even influencer, Ky not only faces positive feedback to her work. As she describes, some women agree with the topics she addresses but also disagree with the way she approached the topics. Her answer to this is quite simple:
“I’m talking about me. If it was different for you, that’s cool. I think inclusivity is a very good thing. I’m a Black woman. . . . I have learned to be very strong. I surround myself with people who agree with me.”
Laetitia Ky’s art is a perfect example of how creative and extravagant art is able to raise awareness and start conversations and debates even outside of exhibitions and museums. Ky’s mission is to inspire women to speak, to believe and especially to question, which is what art is supposed to cause, right?!
“When you start to believe you’re valuable, that you’re worth something, you don’t accept injustice any more. You want respect. You want to be free.”—Laetitia Ky, The Guardian 2022.
Follow Laetitia Ky on Instagram and TikTok, and check out her book here.