I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at when I visited the NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism (NSAF) by Hyphen-Labs exhibit at SXSW. Is this art? Technology? Fashion? I did know that I was looking upon innovation that was targeted to me, as a black woman.
The best description is probably that the exhibit was a combination of all three. The NSAF project is designed by a team of women of color who are artists, scientists, and researchers. NSAF is a virtual world and display of objects that are part art and part tech, all centered on the black female experience. The project creators are Ashley Baccus-Clark, Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Ece Tankal, and Nitzan Bartov.
These braids were part of the display. If you look closely, you will see electrodes intertwined between the plaiting. These electrodes are a non-invasive stimulation treatment designed to reduce anxiety and chronic pain. They are especially made for wearing with braided hairstyles and weaves.
These beautifully artistic African hands are holding U.V. Beams. It’s a unique aloe vera cream that is made for skin with high melanin. Created in collaboration with the Himba women of Northern Namibia, the cream offers sunscreen without leaving the white residue that other sunblock does on dark skin.
Other crafts in the exhibit included HyperFace—a gorgeous scarf that also serves as an anti-surveillance tool. Its technology blocks facial recognition. RubyCam are earrings that will capture and record audio and video in case the wearer is subject to aggression.
The exhibit also featured a virtual reality experience. Although I didn’t get a chance to try it, it is described as “a VR experience that takes place at a ‘neurocosmetology lab’ in the future. Participants see themselves in the mirror as a young black girl, as the lab owner explains that they are about to experience cutting-edge technology involving both hair extensions and brain-stimulating electrical currents. In the VR narrative, the electrodes then prompt a hallucination that carries viewers through a psychedelic Afrofuturist space landscape.”