Celebrating the Launch of the Open Source Afro Hair Library

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A zine honoring the launch of the Open Source Afro Hair Library and transcript of a talk and reception with creative director A.M. Darke and web design and development lead Estevan Carlos Benson.

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Access to the transcript and a link to the zine provided after email signup.

On October 20th, 2023, Kiillscreen and the Open Source Hair Library held the first so excited to have the first public IRL event for the Library. We talked about the story of OSAHL, how it came to be, and all the thought and iteration that has gone into it.

The Open Source Afro Hair Library provides free access to high-quality 3D models of Black hair textures and styles. One of the most important aspects of cultural identity, Black hairstyles have come to symbolize pride, personal expression, and political resistance. OSAHL’s mission is to radically expand the images we see of Black hair on-screen and the opportunities Black creators have behind the scenes. More than a resource, it is a growing community of Black artists and allies building a queer, feminist, creative community to celebrate Black hair in three dimensions.

We spoke with creative director Darke, web design and development lead Estevan Carlos Benson, and Killscreen director Jamin Warren to explore:

Representation Crisis: A critical look into how mainstream digital media has failed to provide authentic Black hairstyles. Delving into the past, we’ll chat about the history of representation and why programmers struggled to transcend limited and stereotypical hair models. (Afros based on cauliflowers, for real?)

A Spark and an Insight: We’ll talk to Darke about her inspiration behind the Open Source Afro Hair Library. As an advocate for anti-racist, anti-capitalist, and feminist narratives, he emphasizes the importance of unified ownership and the ethical use of Black hair portrayals in gaming and other media.

Creating the Library: So now what? We’ll talk about building the library and building a team, what the inspirations were for the collection, and how it is structured.

Prepping for the Long-Haul: OSAHL has already created dozens of incredible 3D assets for the library by working with artists worldwide. With your help, we can continue to develop new resources, support underrepresented artists, and fulfill our mission to radically expand the images we see on screen and the people who make them.

A showcase of collections from the library follwed the panel. This was a space for celebration, introduction, and envisioning a future where every Black digital player and creator feels seen and represented.

About Our Speakers

A.M. Darke (s/he)

A.M. Darke is an artist playing with multiple media forms including games, software, performance, writing, and social practice. She’s a professor of Performance, Play, and Design, and Digital Arts and New Media at UC Santa Cruz. A.M. started the Open Source Afro Hair Library as an intervention in digital media, a celebration of the Black artists and Black communities that continue to shape culture around the world. A.M.’s work integrates his identities as a neurodivergent, genderchaotic, Blackity-Black American with her lifelong fascination with games, hair, beauty, fashion, pop culture, and urgent social issues.

Estevan Carlos Benson (he/him)

Estevan Carlos Benson is a first-generation artist, creative technologist, and composer based in Los Angeles, California. His work addresses culture and creative exploration through custom built tools. He has toured as a VJ, has developed many websites, teaches design in Southern California, and co-founded a virtual music instrument company, Gesture Audio. Estevan has been with the Afro Hair Library since 2020, spearheading the entire Web Development and Design process, currently on our 3rd iteration. In addition to his meticulous design skills, and the ability to translate them into a functional site, Estevan is himself an artist and educator who brings these invaluable skills to the Afro Hair Library community. A partner from inception, Estevan has continued to support the library with insight and generosity.

Renderings by Elijah S. Richmond | Evening Cicada, Keneisha Perry, Malika Mutumbo, and Jovan Wilson for the Open Source Afro Hair Library. Photography in header by Meika Eljasi.