Time is one of the most crucial elements in Afra’s work. The artist constantly questions, “How do we process time?” In a seemingly short span, throughout the ’90s until now, her hometown Abu Dhabi has seen a vast shift in the landscape. “I think that there’s a lot of questioning about the notion of time, and what time feels like here versus in the west,” observes Afra. “Or how we experience moments – slow or fast. That leads to this understanding of time and the way we experience it. We lose parts of our identity moving through change, [and there are] parts that fall within the cracks of moving forward. It becomes a very fragile moment. But at the same time, reflecting and responding to that is important. That summarises how we adapt as well to change, time and to ephemerality.”
In this sense, Afra’s conceptual work views hair almost as a measuring tape, exploring the layers and layers of meaning buried underneath. “This material that I am exploring and trying to understand, also has the capacity to hold form,” explains Afra.
The artist also explores the ties between hair and memory. “I found myself looking at hair as a representation of time and as a presentation for memory,” says Afra. “I dived into this idea of hair and what it represents personally, culturally or religiously.” For the artist, hair symbolises a timeline: how long the owner has been treating, nourishing and maintaining it. For instance, short hair could reflect a recent change such as a cut, while longer hair may signify long-term experiences.