Behind the hair: Meet Lakwena Maciver

Behind the hair: Meet Lakwena Maciver

Meet Lakwena Maciver, we talk hair, her infamous mural in Miami, Sun Ra and losing a tooth while getting her hair did.

My background is graphic design and illustration; that’s what I studied, but my profession, well, I call myself an artist.

It’s weird being described; I guess I'm creative, gentle, thoughtful, erm, a bit quirky. People say I’m gentle, I don’t feel it, but people always say that.  

I’ve always been into drawing and I’m good at it; I’m more into words than pictures of people. When I finished my A-levels, I was planning on doing linguistics at university, because I love languages.

But then I went to Brazil on a gap year, stayed with some friends and ended up painting a wall; I was like “wow” this is what I really want to do. And also I could learn a language better being somewhere than studying it. So I came back here and went on to do a foundation [degree or course] in graphics and I did well in that so I went on to do illustration at LCC. I found that I really cared about what I was saying and wanted to use it in a powerful way.

"I went to Miami in 2013 and I painted this really big wall and it was from there that I started getting more walls and kind of sealed it in people's minds."

On New Year's Eve in 2013, Beyonce went there and took a picture standing next to it but didn’t write my name on her post, but you know what, it was amazing.  I woke up and saw all of these messages; I was like, "what’s going on?" That was really special.

"As I child, I lost a tooth getting my hair combed."

I just hated getting my hair combed. My dad was combing my hair and he was being a bit rough and I ended up banging my tooth on a table. I don’t feel like I’ve got to Nirvana, you know with hair. I go through phases; when I was about 14 I used to go all the way to Woolwich on the 161, to this weird shop where I didn’t understand a word of what anyone was saying. They’d be speaking Patois and I’d just nod along. They would put my hair in this weird roller set, like an old lady. I used to come out of the salon with a hot face from the dryer and my hair would be in these tiny little curls. I’d walk out and go to these horrible toilets by Woolwich Arsenal station and then comb my hair out of the weird roller set and tie it back. 

 I was into natural hair early on, when only the Americans were doing it. It was a really difficult time for me.  I was in a predominantly white area and I went to a school that was predominantly white and I had this hair that didn’t fit into what was seen as beautiful. So I found this poem -   Afro Mile High Butter Pecan Chile this was back in the day, when I needed someone to identify with and gets who I am. Then I found the poem, this person who got it.

"I’ve never had a particular hair hero, but I think what Solange is doing is great."

I think she inspired me in a way to wear my hair out and in an afro. I never had the guts to do that before. It was actually my husband who said to me, why don’t I just wear my hair in an afro and I thought ‘nah’. But then one day I just put on some red lipstick and wore it like that. And it was a really big thing for me and now it’s my favourite hairstyle.

"I find black womens’ hair so exciting - we can do what ever we like."

For instance, I love dancehall styles. They’ll have a bleached bit here, some crazy purple bit there and I’m like, you’re clearly not pretending that’s your hair, you’re not trying to be ‘European’ you're just having fun. I find it so inspiring and bold.

"I love Sun Ra, how he dresses, he used to dress in the most amazing ways."

I just love the craziness of it all; I’m really inspired by it. He talks about his clothes being garments for the life to come; a life he had decided to hasten by looking the part.

I’m not following rules for my hair, my hair regime is just whatever I’m doing that week. When I get really frustrated with my hair, I just wash it, comb it and leave it out to dry and keep it in an afro for the whole week. And I feel really empowered and beautiful. 


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