The Fascinating History Of African Women’s Hair


It may appear funny when someone asks you what hair is. However, you might be perplexed and find yourself on the hooks of the doubt when asked such a question. What is hair? It is any of the fine threadlike strands growing from the skin of human beings and some animals. In everyday life today, people shave, wash, or moisturize their hair like it is normal. They do not give their hair the much weight it deserves. They don’t have the consciousness that their hair is also part of life. Or should we say that they are ignorant on the basis they should treat it? Knowing about it is to know much about how to treat it with the dignity it deserves.

It is imperative, and it has a powerful history behind it, especially black people’s hair. This article gives you the facts to stay grounded regarding black women’s hair.

Why Hair is Important to Women

Apart from expressing creativity and culture, it has some significance to the female gender. It is a symbol of femininity, identity, freedom, beauty, and liberation. Besides, hair represents the personality, thoughts, and beliefs of most women. It contributes significantly to the self-esteem and motives of women. It might surprise you what we are talking about at this point? Yes, that was how important it was to women in the ancient world.

In modern times, women are changing hairstyles to express themselves in different ways. Before we go further, it is important to look at the history of African women’s hairstyles. Does it speak for itself? Like how you put on speaks volumes in public places, so do the hairstyle one embraces.

The History of Black Women’s Hairstyles

Hair played a part in the way of life of ancient African civilizations. It represented one’s family background, spirituality tribe, marital and social statuses. In the 15th century, various ethnic groups used hair to show one’s social order or hierarchy. Royalty members wore complicated hairstyles as a representation of their status.

According to the Africans, it was a representation of fertility. If an individual’s hair was very thick and long, it represented that an individual could bear healthy offsprings. Ancient societies believed that hair aided with divine interaction. This belief is the cause of why most people in the communities trusted hairstyling to close relatives or members. People believed that if a single strand of hair fell into the hands of a foe, danger could reach the hair strand owner. It was just a belief of their own, and maybe they had a reason they believed so, don’t take it further at the barbershop.

The African continent is rich with old hair backgrounds and styles. We will discuss some hairstyles across the African region. In the Himba ethnic group, hair shows an individual’s age and marital status. The group lives in the northwestern area of Namibia. The ethnic group members use a combination of ground ochre, the hairs of a goat, and butter to make their locks. Moreover, they also add hair extensions when interlacing their locks. Interesting, isn’t it?

The Young and Hairstyle

Young teenage girls wore dreadlocks that were suspended over their faces. This showed that they have transitioned into the adolescent stage. Single men wore a braid to reveal their state. Once they get engaged, they conceal their heads and would never show or reveal them in public.

With the Fulani tribe, the biggest nomadic ethnic group globally, they braided their hair. The women weaved their hair into more than 3 long braids they suspended on the side of their heads. They beautify their hair with cowrie shells and beads.

The Wodaabe ethnic group style their hairs like the Fulani tribe. The girls and women from this ethnic group plait braids and include a coiffure in the center. They beautify or decorate their hair with beads and cowrie shells, just like the Fulani tribe.

For the Hamar ethnic group, a pastoral tribe that lives in Ethiopia, their women wear ochre locks on their hairs. They make their locks by combining water with resin. Pre-pubescent young girls wear their hair in cornrows.

There were also some methods of hairstyling essential for the survival of the African people. African ancestors would place seeds, rice, and gold on the scalp between the 2 parts of the hair. Rice was food that would sustain them when foreigners capture and cross them across the Atlantic. The ancestors would also use the same method when they were planning for an escape. The seeds and gold would aid them in creating a new life.

The Origin of Braids

People trace the origins of braids back to the African way of life. One can trace the origin of braids way back 5 millennia in the African culture to 3500 BC. The braids were famous among black women. According to research, braiding began in the African continent with the Himba ethnic group of Namibia.



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