Crépu: Our DNA returns to the Canada Science and Technology Museum

The Canada Science and Technology Museum is hosting one of Ottawa’s hottest events celebrating Black History Month: Crépu: Our DNA.

For those unfamiliar with the word crépu, it’s a saying for wavy hair with very small curls. Crépu: Our DNA focuses on hair and its cultural impact and beauty. The show explores hair as a medium that Black people use to express creativity, preserve history, and reaffirm the strength and beauty of Black culture throughout the diaspora.

Like most Western cities, Ottawa’s beauty standards and advertisements are dictated mostly by Caucasian hair and hairstyles. To learn more about Crépu: Our DNA, we spoke to Sandra Ngenge Dusabe, one of the show’s organisers, about the show’s 2024 edition.

As an artist, Dusabe is both a painter and curator. In addition to her role as the Programming and Cultural Coordinator at Debaser, a non-profit music presenter, she launched The Moving Art Gallery in 2020. The independent gallery showcases artworks based on merit, with a particular focus on highlighting the contributions of Black women in the arts.

Dusabe says she started the Moving Art Gallery after finding that the artwork she produced wasn’t accepted across the City of Ottawa. The Moving Art Gallery highlights fine arts excellence while allowing Black women to demonstrate their merit in the artistic community. Her goal is for Black female artists to be presented not just as ‘tokenised representations’ but as actual creators.

Dusabe notes the artistic expression in Afro-hair styling: “Hair has not always been framed as an artistic expression, but the time, the history, the aesthetic, and the work that it takes to style Black hair makes it extremely artistic.” Dusabe and the other event organisers, including Hors Pair Social and Igenium, decided to hold the event in February to put a spotlight on representing Black Canadian style and art.

Igenium approached Dusabe after last year’s inaugural Crépu event, which focused more on the style and artistic aspects. This year’s edition will not shy away from those themes but will also embrace the genetic and DNA aspects of hair, giving a presentation on the science of it. Dusabe credits Igenium with integrating science and fashion under the same roof to create a fascinating and stylish evening for everyone. When you’re at the event, make sure to check out a fascinating presentation by Sarah Jaworski and Alexa Lepera from the Ingenium Curatorial Team. They’re diving into different fields to highlight the incredible complexity and innovation in Black hair care.

Other events include workshops on styling and caring for curly hair. Perhaps the coolest event of the night will be the Care to Hair runway event, where modern talent and style will be showcased along with traditional methods of taking care of Afro-hair.

With events like Crépu, Dusabe hopes to help shift the broader cultural lexicon so that more spaces where Black Canadians can see themselves represented are opened up. Having an event at a major Canadian museum will help shift that perception. “I think the visibility of Black Canadian identity when it comes to marketing, products, and innovation, all of these concepts, all of these things lead back to representation.”

Dusabe points out that without that representation, the products available to suit the needs of underrepresented groups like Black Canadians will continue to be limited. She says, “The overall landscape for grooming and cosmetics will only be so developed; the heights that you reach beyond that will never be attained unless the people who are underrepresented see themselves.”

Tickets for the event are sold out online, but some will be available at the door. Crépu: Our DNA runs from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 4th.

The Canada Science and Technology Museum is located at 1867 St. Laurent Boulevard.