Know Your Roots

KNOW YOUR ROOTS is a new project, generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, that will use mixed media technology to develop art work that celebrates the beauty of black hair.

Participants will embark on a super, kinky, curly exploration of the connections between heritage and hair. They will be given the opportunity to sharpen their creative skills and produce a vibrant online exhibition that celebrates the beauty of afro hair. They will also record their personal hair journeys for the London Metropolitan Archives and thereby, become part of London’s living history!

Click here to see the Know Your Roots website and the Gallery. Follow our Instagram Knowyourroots18.

Why are we doing the project?

PYL ran focus groups and the project leader led research where young people told us that they wanted to develop more understanding about the nature of afro hair and how to maintain it. Some young women explained that they appreciated their hair in its natural state but felt that it was not always appreciated by others and that there were some settings  they presumed would not allow them to wear their hair naturally, such as their place of employment.  Engaging in the project will enable participants working on the project and the wider audience to understand that the presentation and texture of afro hair is determined by a natural structure of curl pattern not a fundamental flaw requiring correction.

Young people from diverse ethnic groups have expressed an interest in learning more about the geography of hair and how the texture evolved as a protective factor against harsh UV rays. Young, white British women talked about wanting to be able to understand more about the hair of family members who have African ancestry. By definition members of a Diaspora are unrooted; this project will provide an opportunity for young people to feel more grounded in themselves by developing a greater level of knowledge about their heritage and ancestry.

How does the project work?

Participants will work with visiting tutors to explore the connections for them between their heritage and their hair. They will then be introduced to a range of different artists and supported to create their own art work. Artists referred to for inspiration will include the work of Carol Rossetti. The material generated will be curated into an online exhibition. The work will help raise the self-esteem of other young black women and men and raise awareness with a wider audience about links between culture and identity.

This project has also been developed in recognition that all young people need to learn about their identity to promote healthy emotional well-being.




“The positive experience was a vital part of our on-going mission – tackling issues related to self-esteem, identity and cultural understanding.  It was wonderful to see the beautiful art work, the filmed discussions and the enthusiasm. It was also great to see students from a range of backgrounds learning from each other and developing their empathetic skills.”  – Headteacher, UCL Academy

“Pick three words that describe beautiful hair to you”

“Black, Beautiful ( in it’s own way) Unique”. – Pupil.




Participating Groups

Flashpoint Play Group (Epic CIC)


Youth Action Alliance/Unity Centre

Sion Manning School

UCL Academy

London Metropolitan Archives

198 Gallery

Project Director

Sandra Vacciana


Sandra Vacciana

Juliet Agyemang

Ilaria Di Fiore

Stephanie Johnson

Kareen Williams

Maureen Roberts

Daniella Dawkins

Tanya Cole-Edwards

Russell John Haynes

Kathryn Makatin

Adisa Stevens

Paula Mendonca


Juliet Agyemang

Antonia Peña

Project Coordination and Administrative Support

Rianne Williams

Zoe Nation