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Africans have traditionally worn cornrows for certain festivals and celebrations or as a regular daily hairstyle. Members fo the Temne and Yoruba groups in Africa might spend hours or even days creating a cornrow style and cornrowing is regarded as an art as well as a hairstyling technique. ” 3
And I would suspect that a majority of groups across the continent also spend a significant amount of time creating styles. A member of the Nubian group of east Africa told me that while the women in her family don’t braid their hair as much any more that when they did the braids were extremely tiny and took hours to complete.
But in Sierra Leone we are talking about the Mende and Temne for the most part. On my very first morning, as I stood on the front porch of my hosts house, I watched children walk to school. This young lady was walking with a group of friends and I just had to stop her, run inside for my camera and take a “snap” *
Three things struck me about this style 1. the length of her hair (short) 2. the different techniques used to create it. 3. The center tuft down the center of her head.
I don’t want to go into the styling how-to’s, since this isn’t an instructional blog, but I do want to linger on the meaning of it all. I think it’s obvious that the number 1 purpose of this style was for beauty. But even in that vain it illustrates several points about the significance of African styling. For example, the center tuft is a repeated theme that originates with connecting to the spirit. side note: I was all giggly inside to see this modern day representation of the style that I highlighted in my video.
Sierra Leone, West Africa where the dominant ethnic groups are Mende and Temne, however there also exist Kono and Fula ethnic groups. During my recent trip I was reminded of the significance of our hair through the intricate, diverse styles that flower the heads of mostly every Sierra Leoneon, from young to old.
Mohawk is African style!
The mohawk is what we know it as if we were born in the U.S. This signature style of the Pawnee people is how we’ve come to classify the style that similarly has its roots in Africa. In my video African Hair and It’s Significance I highlight the significance of centering tufts of hair down the middle of our heads; significance of which focus on calling power to oneself and establishing an spiritual
connection with whatever the culture deems; usually to God and deities. It’s only right then that Mr. T would introduce this style for his character as B.A. Baracus in the 1980’s cult television show the ‘A-Team’ in which he portrayed a very strong image. His hair, among other things, were symbolic of his knowledge of Africa.
In Sierra Leone different versions of this style exist and I couldn’t help thinking about the relationship to Fula culture which, visually,
is most like the mohawks that we are use to seeing. Mostly worn by young men, the sides are usually bare but in some instances are faded, and sometimes with cut lines to accentuate the curve or with designs. Generally speaking, the styling is not so different from the what we see from Africans who wear this style all over the world and it’s not surprising that we would once again pick it back up as if we knew it was ours in the first place. We recognize ourselves through our hair.
Hi my name is Ayesha and I’m the lead author for this blog. As other writers come on I will add information about them here.
So this blog is an extension of a video that I created a few years ago by the same name., originally posted on a little channel called Najahface in 2008. Actually this is the modern-day living breathing representation of a project that I hope will circumnavigate the globe (digitally of course).
African Hair…Why not Black Hair?
There is some misconception that African hair is just this one type of hair, which is usually thought of as the curliest tightest driest most difficult. But that isn’t always the case. Even though this type does exist in the sphere of African Hair, it isn’t the only type.
We have this habit of tribalizing ourselves, in some cases creating differences where there is none. Notwithstanding differences in cultural styling, hair texture in the African world is diverse, even on the African continent.
I’ve heard people call my hair African-American hair only because I was born in America. However, neither of my parents were born here nor were my foreparents so how did my hair become American. I thought that hair was determined through lineage not geography so since my lineage is predominately African wouldn’t it stand to reason that my hair is African?