Sara Mathiasson may be the only artist at Contemporary Istanbul who’s a master of the cornrow. A lifelong fascination with hair braiding brought her to study hairdressing in Gambia, after which the Swedish artist took her knowledge of African braiding styles (Goddess Braids, Bantu Knots, Tree Braids, and Senegalese Twists, to name a few) to the sculptural arena. Mathiasson’s bust sculptures are festooned with intricate natural and synthetic braids, which she piles to near architectural heights or layers over the bust’s frame like a bee-keeper costume. In countries like Nigeria and Gambia, hair braiding is both symbolic and functional, often indicating social status, age, or religion. Matthiason’s work addresses Western appropriation of this traditional African way of adorning the body in fashion and popular culture (or, as she describes it, the Western “masquerade of assimilation.”).