Hats and other headgear are probably the most potent expressions of one’s cultural identity. The hat, turban or cap reveals a lot about your nationality, ethnicity, religion, social status or gender. Designer Daniela Dossi studied headgear in press photos from all over the world to reveal the symbolic, political and social values that underpin it. She developed a method to remix headgear, combining different cultural identities in the process. Her research and its outcome is on display from 5 April until 1 September at Design Museum Gent.
“Show me the clothes of a country and I will write its history for you”
The research covered an extensive archive of 838 press photos from 170 countries. Daniela Dossi extracted the used textile, the wearers and their social status, resources, actions and location from these photos. She used this data to examine the symbolic, political and social values of headgear in today’s society. E.g.: the colours, prints and fabric of a veil do not determine whether it is worn for religious reasons. How it is draped is however crucial to read it.
New combinations: the first collection
Together with a group of participants of various origins, Daniela Dossi developed 800 hand-made textile samples, relying on the visual index of press photos with headgear. The fabric, pattern, technique and colour were transposed as accurately as possible into samples of a similar size. New hybrid headgear was then created based on combinations of these textile samples with press images. The textile of a specific type of headgear from Kyrgyzstan was combined with the shape of Pakistani headgear, for example.
The textile research and the first collection are the result of a long-term residency of Dossi at Manoeuvre, an arts space for co-creation, craftsmanship and diversity in the Rabot quarter in Ghent. The super-diversity within Manoeuvre, where many women with different headgear and people of different origins and backgrounds meet, provided the perfect setting for this project.
Does headgear define a separate identity, does it foster certain social standards and does it accentuate stereotypes in the perception of cultural diversity? By remixing this headgear, Hybrid Heads wants to create new hybrid cultural identities. In an era of cultural globalisation, everyone inhabits a diverse context, in which intercultural encounters influence your cultural identity. The project questions contemporary roles and stereotypes with respect for all cultures and without engaging in cultural appropriation.
Hybrid Heads offers a model for collaboration, reflection and an open framework to reflect on and establish new relationships between visual culture, open design, art, fashion, craftsmanship and textile design. In 2019, a publication will be issued about the project, which will also be available during the exhibition.
Hybrid Heads is a joint project of Daniela Dossi and Manoeuvre, a multidisciplinary artist-run space in Ghent. Daniela Dossi also conducted research in the textile collection of Design Museum Gent as part of Hybrid Heads.