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Eyeliner: A Cultural History
From the distant past to the present day, humans have been drawn to lining their eyes. The aesthetic trademark of figures ranging from Nefertiti to Amy Winehouse, eyeliner is one of our most enduring cosmetic tools; ancient royals and Gen Z beauty influencers alike would attest to its uniquely transformative power. It is undeniably fun – yet it is also far from frivolous.
Seen through Zahra Hankir’s (kohl-lined) eyes, this ubiquitous but seldom-examined product becomes a portal to history, proof both of the stunning variety among cultures across time and space and of our shared humanity. Through intimate reporting and conversations – with nomads in Chad, geishas in Japan, dancers in India, drag queens in New York, and more – Eyeliner embraces the rich history and significance of its namesake, especially among communities of colour. What emerges is a delightful, surprising, and unexpectedly moving journey through streets, stages, and bedrooms around the world, and a thought-provoking reclamation of a key piece of our collective history.