When I was a young girl, my mom would sometimes style my hair in what many of you now recognize as “African threading”. The threaded style has a history of popularity in Africa, but is certainly not the only unique style of that region. Here are some more beautiful looks from around the continent.
1. Braided hair of the Tuareg women (primarily in Niger)
Tuareg are a semi-nomadic group and mainly live in the southwestern parts of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Libya, and southern region of Algeria. One common hair style of the women and girls is the beautiful braided styles close to the scalp as seen in the following photo. The women primarily keep their hair styles covered while the girls do not.
2. Braided hair of the Wodaabe (subgroup of Fulani — Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Niger)
Wodaabe, a subgroup of Fulani, are traditionally nomadic with migrations extending through southern Niger, through northern Nigeria, northeastern Cameroon, southwestern Chad, and the western region of the Central African Republic. Many of the women and girls wear a braid on each side with the crown and bang hair sculpted into a pompadour-like structure.
3. Ochre twists of Hamar women (Ethiopia)
The Hamar inhabit the Omo River Valley in southwestern Ethiopia. According to one source (Ardi Ethiopia), the Hamar women “illustrate their welfare and health by mixing together ochre, water and binding resin, rubbing the mixture into their hair, and then twisting the strands to create coppery colored tresses known as goscha”.
4. Intricate braids of the Amhara and Tigray-Tigrinya (Ethiopia, Eritrea)
Tigray-Tigrinya live in the northern highlands of Ethiopia and southern and central parts of Eritrea while the Amhara inhabit the northern and central highlands of Ehtiopia. Women and girls from both groups commonly wear strikingly intricate ‘cornrow’ styles with hair left out in the back as seen in the following collage. According to Tigrai Online:
“Women in Tigrai [Tigray] might wear a variety of hairstyles based on their age and marital status. Young girls shave their hair on the side of their head leaving some hair at the back of the head and around the head. The shaved part slowly closes over the years. By the time a young lady is married and has a kid she officially enters womanhood and she wears the fully braided hair do. There are many styles of braiding from the very fine called gilbich to a course one called albaso.”
5. Coated plaits of Mumuhuila women (Angola)
Finally, Mumuhuila (or Mwila) are indigenous to southern Angola and the women are known for their intriguing hair style. According to photographer Eric Lafforgue (linked on Beautiful Afrique):
“The women coat their hair with a red paste called, oncula, made of crushed red stone. They also put a mix of oil, crushed tree bark, dried cow dung and herbs on their hair. Their hair is decorated with beads, cauri shells (real or plastic ones) and dried food. Having their forehead shaved is considered as a sign of beauty. The plaits, which look like dreadlocks are called nontombi and have a precise meaning. Women or girls usually have four or six nontombi but when they only have three it means that someone died in their family.”
What other unique African styles do you know about?