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Death & desire

18 June to 7 Sept 2018 | 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday | Turnbull Gallery, Level one

Hair — neither dead nor alive

Hair is not quite dead, nor is it alive — perhaps that’s why we continue to be fascinated by it, as well as repulsed. 

For many centuries and across cultures, hair has been charged with symbolic and sacred meaning. Victorian-era Europeans, including those who emigrated to New Zealand, gave it almost fetishistic value.

Miss Mima (Jemima) Potto with a very elaborate hairdo
Miss Mima (Jemima) Potto, photographed ca 1870s-1880s by William James Harding. Ref: 1/4-008879-G

What stories does the hair in the Turnbull collections unlock?

The hair in the Turnbull collections has come to us by chance — found among personal documents, in a trunk of possessions, or folded in the pages of a letter or diary.

What stories does this hair unlock? Each curl or clipping was taken by, or given to a loved one: in such exchanges, hair embodies our most intimate stories of loss, memory and desire.

Carte de visite portrait of Tangiora, taken 22 March 1884 by Samuel Carnell of Napier. Ref: 1/4-022171-G