The Dreadlock Hoax Between 2009 and 2014, multimedia artist Kabe Wilson took all 37971 words of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, and rearranged them to write a novella. Titled 'Of One Woman or So' by 'Olivia N’Gowfri' (both anagrams of the original), it tells the story of a young feminist who rebels against literature and history by setting fire to the libraries of the University of Cambridge.

'The Dreadlock Hoax' was a performance art piece that was staged as an introduction to the 'Of One Woman or So' project. It took place in the drawing room of Virginia Woolf's former Bloomsbury home on 19th May 2014, before an audience and alongside a visual collage of the novella. This vast sheet of paper displayed 'Of One Woman or So' in its entirety, assembled from every word of a cut-up copy of A Room of One's Own. Inverting the infamous 'Dreadnought Hoax' of 1910 (in which a 28-year old Virginia Woolf blacked up as a young Abyssinian man), Kabe Wilson arrived, dressed as Virginia Woolf with greyed dreadlocks. The artist then read a speech that described the complex process of writing 'Of One Woman or So'. However, at the end Wilson announced that the speech was a hoax, and that like the novella it was a perfect rearrangement of Woolf's words – this time, those of her 1937 essay 'Craftsmanship' (The Death of the Moth, and Other Essays).

Wilson's performance played heavily on the theme of 'passing', not only in terms of race and gender, but also by arranging the language so that the audience sometimes thought they were hearing one word, when the artist was actually saying another. These phonetic tricks allowed him to pass off Woolf's essay as a new speech, adding extra layers of meaning to her words. A full transcript of the speech has been reproduced, and an audio recording of the performance is available on the website.



The_Dreadlock_Hoax_Portrait, 2008