Hair is a source of pride in Africa. In ancient Africa, it was a sign of beauty, a source of spirituality, and a way to communicate and share important messages. Hair held significance for different groups across the continent before colonization and the slave trade. And many of the styles we rock today come from that time, although they have definitely changed and adapted over time. Below are three notable hairstyles from ancient Africa that wear and have adapted for ourselves today. If you want to read all about the various ingredients used to protect hair by women in different communities in Africa, head here to read our blog post that breaks down three notable ingredients.
Although this iconic style gained mainstream popularity in the early 2000s from the likes of Alicia Keys rocking it, this style has been worn for centuries by women in West Africa. The Fulani tribe was one of the biggest nomadic communities in the region. Fulani braids usually consist of two rows of neat cornrows often in intricate styles, with a few braids (the ones closest to the ears) coming forward, so they hang down and frame the chin. Oftentimes, two braids in the middle of the head come forward and hang at the forehead. There are many variations of the style, however, the style hasn’t massively changed from inception, except that now, we add extensions to our Fulani braids to achieve the desired look. The women of the Fulani donned the style and often accessorized it with gold and silver discs. Our love of beads, hair jewels, and accessories didn’t come from nowhere.
The Mbalantu are a group from Namibia in Southern Africa. They are known for wearing their long hair that resembles box braids. Perhaps the idea and style of box braids were first seen on these women, meaning that it could well be the root of the style we know and love today. For the Mbalantu women, wearing the braids is a rite of passage that is preceded by a few necessary steps. At 12 years old, the girls go through a process that is meant to accelerate their hair growth in preparation for the long braids. Their hair is coated and saturated in a paste that is made from finely ground tree bark and fat. The paste is then removed a few years later, and then they are allowed to wear the braids. However, the braids of the Mbalantu women are not exactly like the braids we wear today. They tie fruit pips from bird plum to the ends of their hair, and use sinew strings to serve as extensions. They normally have their braids down to the ground. At first glance, it’s quite similar to the long box braids we rock today!
Hair was of great significance to Ancient Egyptians, and they had many ways of expressing themselves through their hair. Research has shown that ancient Egyptians used combs, shavers, tweezers and hair curlers. Taking care of their hair was common practise, and they developed many ways of doing so. They preferred to wear their hair short, clean and neat, and many shaved off their hair entirely. Women kept their hair short or bald, and those of high status and influence often wore wigs and adorned them with gold ornaments, flowers, beads, ribbons and jewellery. Their wigs were made of human hair (like today!), although some wigs had plant fiber added to them. Hair was a sign of beauty and a source of pride for many women in the region (not their real hair, but the cleanliness and neatness of whatever style they chose). Research has shown that a few women dyed their hair – although it is unclear exactly what they used to do so. Cleopatra wore her hair short and black, and it was usually accessorised with gold jewellery. It’s interesting to think that wigs are still rocked today, much like the ancient Egyptians did over 2,000 years ago, and hair jewellery is still very much a thing we love.
To prep for any protective styles you choose to do, use our #DEARBLACKGIRL kit. If you purchase the kit along with our Onion & Garlic Thickening Ayurvedic Herb Hair Oil, we’ll donate 15% of the profits towards building other black businesses across the country that have been hit hard during this time. For us, putting the black dollar back into our community is essential. Our history is important; our hair is important; and supporting each other is vital, so we’re proud to do so.
The #DEARBLACKGIRL kit features our Chebe Powder Growth Hair Mask, Ultra Nourishing Guacamole Hair Mask and Golden Sea Buckthorne Shine & Moisture Hair Butter, and works great for all hair porosities – you heard that right! This kit is essential for all naturalistas. It works to repair damaged hair, treat split ends, promote volume and thickness, as well as seal in moisture. This kit is essential for hair care, and giving your hair the nourishment it needs, ensuring that your gorgeous protective styles come out great. Healthy hair is the foundation for beautiful protective styles.
If you use any of the products in our #DEARBLACKGIRL kit or our Onion & Garlic Thickening Ayurvedic Herb Hair Oil, please post and tag us at @BELLEBARORGANIC and use the hashtag #RESPECTMYCROWN. We’d love to see what you come up with!