A portrait of a Black woman wearing an elaborately braided wig redolent of Nefertiti's hat.

All images © Delphine Diallo, shared with permission

In her series Highness, Delphine Diallo’s regal subjects don elaborate masks, headdresses, and jewelry. Captured in both color and black-and-white, the women are portrayed as timeless and noble, wearing body paint, jewelry, and attire that draw on mythology and spiritual symbols to explore what the photographer calls the “divine female body.”

Highness developed from an earlier project focused on presenting family members and friends as goddesses. As the series expanded, Diallo recognized the importance of connecting to her subjects and empowering them in the process, emphasizing deep conversations and building long-term relationships with her sitters.

In a practice spanning sculpture, design, photography, collages, and music, Diallo finds inspiration in collaboration and learning from others. Highness features intricate hair pieces made by Joanne Petit-Frère, including a towering form evocative of Nefertiti’s tapered blue headdress. Composed of numerous braids, Petit-Frère’s creations envelop the face or curl around beads, complemented by metalwork by L’Enchanteur.

Diallo recently released a new book titled Divine, published by Hat and Beard Press, and if you’re in London, you can see her work at Somerset House through September 24 as part of the group exhibition Black Venus. Find more work on the artist’s website and Instagram.

 

A portrait of a Black woman wearing an elaborately braided wig.

Two portraits of Black women wearing elaborately braided wigs.

A portrait of a Black woman wearing an elaborately braided wig.

Two black-and-white portraits of Black women. On the left, the woman wears white body paint on half of her face. On the left, the woman wears a face covering of cascading beads.  A portrait of a Black woman wearing an elaborately braided mask.

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