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The Mbalantu Women of Africa and Their Floor-Length Natural Hair Tradition

Avatar • Jun 15, 2015

tribaltrends

Near the Southern tips of Angola, reside the Mbalantu tribes of Namibia. Mbalantu women are known for their headdresses. At the age of twelve, young girls in Mbalantu tribes begin preparing their hair for the headdress. They cover their hair with a thick layer of finely ground tree bark of the omutyuula tree. This mixture is applied to improve hair growth. Within a few years, the thick fat-mixture will be loosened so that the hair is visible. Fruit pips of the bird plum will be attached to the hair ends with the aid of sinew strings.

braided

When young girls reach the age of sixteen, their Fruit pip headdress is discarded and replaced with one of sinews. The style is again changed once the girls reach their Ohango Initiation ceremony. The hair is then styled in 4 long thick eembuvi braids.

women_long_hair

Once the girls make it through their initiation ceremony, they are considered ovafuko (brides) and then an additional layer of tree bark and fat is applied to their hair. The hair is later taken up and styled into elaborate headdresses throughout their life.

namibiastamp

Just goes to show you, Long hair don’t care isn’t anything new.

What do you think of the Mbalantu tradition? 

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Guest
Guest
5 years ago

Beautiful!!!!!

Tuya Kunz
Tuya Kunz
5 years ago

This is a very good article. I am Mbalantu and we don’t actually do this to our hair anymore. We stopped 3 generations ago, my grandmother is the last to have done this to her hair as a young girl — she is 89 now.

Theedeebgee
Theedeebgee
5 years ago
Reply to  Tuya Kunz

So you gonna tell us where we can get some of that omutyuula bark? lolol
You are blessed to have lived to witness it.

TuyaKunz
TuyaKunz
5 years ago
Reply to  Theedeebgee

Lol no I have never witnessed it. Like I said, only my granny them have done this when they were young.

Alicia
Alicia
5 years ago
Reply to  Tuya Kunz

Very interesting! Does she still have long hair?

TuyaKunz
TuyaKunz
5 years ago
Reply to  Alicia

No, she wears her hair in a twa. simple and easy to manage.

Kimmybee
Kimmybee
5 years ago
Reply to  Tuya Kunz

i’m curious: is the hair in a lock state (like with dreadlocks) or is it relatively easy to comb through?

TuyaKunz
TuyaKunz
5 years ago
Reply to  Kimmybee

I don’t know. I have never seen it done nor have I seen it worn. Like I said, my granny’s generation was the last to do this. I’d have to ask her

TuyaKunz
TuyaKunz
5 years ago
Reply to  Kimmybee

I don’t know. Gran was the last to do this when she was young. I’ve never seen it done nor worn.

kalexa1
kalexa1
5 years ago
Reply to  Tuya Kunz

That’s sad to hear. If only cultural traditions like that would get passed right down to present day; adapted if necessary but still in use in our hair care.

mutago
mutago
5 years ago
Reply to  Tuya Kunz

This is so cool. I am also Namibian btw. 🙂

Ronnie
Ronnie
3 years ago
Reply to  Tuya Kunz

I recently saw a video of that process and it seemed way complicated than most people are thinking. It was not some stuff you can just buy in the store or order off line. The steps the woman in the video had to do in preparing many ingredients was complicated and time consuming. A tradition is not just going to the corner hair salon, read some magazines and sit and gossip with the women in the salon. We need to do better at educating ourselves with other cultures. I am so glad my mother raised me watching documentaries and educational… Read more »

Khadijah Hollingsworth
Khadijah Hollingsworth
3 months ago
Reply to  Tuya Kunz

You should at least have the products for sale for the Diaspora including African Americans. We are trying to grow our hair long . We welcome all the help we can get. This would be a very good business for selling. Like the women of Chad who are making their Chebe Powder available to the Diaspora thru a company called Sahel Cosmetics. We really need you to help us with this wonderful technique. Most of us are interested in having long braids and floor length hair would be amazing. I know the Chinese women have hair that is floor length.… Read more »

lauryn
lauryn
5 years ago

Gorgeous. <3

Jo
Jo
5 years ago

Gorgeous! Thank you for this knowledge!

NoTime4Bimbos
NoTime4Bimbos
5 years ago

Where can I get some of that omutyuula tree bark to grind it up lol!!

MagnoliaGirl Phillips
MagnoliaGirl Phillips
5 years ago
Reply to  NoTime4Bimbos

Right!

Chrissie
Chrissie
5 years ago
Reply to  NoTime4Bimbos

LOL right?? I’m ready to start growing one in my apartment.

NoTime4Bimbos
NoTime4Bimbos
5 years ago
Reply to  Chrissie

Hey! If we find out, do share.

A.E.
A.E.
5 years ago
Reply to  NoTime4Bimbos

It’s Acacia tree bark in English.

Theedeebgee
Theedeebgee
5 years ago

Beautiful. I love how neat the hair is braided.
Thanks for sharing.

MagnoliaGirl Phillips
MagnoliaGirl Phillips
5 years ago

this is very nice, what an interesting and informative article

Dee
Dee
5 years ago

Beautiful!

Janice Dickson
Janice Dickson
5 years ago

Is this all of their real hair? I don’t believe it’s that long.

Kay
Kay
5 years ago
Reply to  Janice Dickson

Why don’t you read the article…?

Torie Amza
Torie Amza
5 years ago
Reply to  Kay

Bawaaahaaa!!!!

if you say so
if you say so
5 years ago
Reply to  Janice Dickson

What would lead you to believe that? It might be longer when they take the braid out.…..

Kyoko Sakata
Kyoko Sakata
5 years ago
Reply to  Janice Dickson

It is. If you leave hair alone it will grow wildly.

Ronnie
Ronnie
3 years ago
Reply to  Kyoko Sakata

Why the heck people don’t believe that is their real hair, ignorance.

Steve Biko
Steve Biko
5 years ago

What kind of a last name is Kunz for an OmuWambo?

TuyaKunz
TuyaKunz
5 years ago
Reply to  Steve Biko

That’s obviously none of your business, but if you must know, it’s not my last name.

Ronnie
Ronnie
3 years ago
Reply to  TuyaKunz

what does your name have to do with anything? I’m black and my last name is Irish descent. Go figure.

Anita Campbell
Anita Campbell
5 years ago

Please ask and let us know. I’m so curious.

Janet Holmes
Janet Holmes
5 years ago

good answer

OneNaijaGirl
5 years ago

Nice but did they shampoo or cleanse in between? Maybe not the shampoos and conditioners of these days but they usually used to have their ways back then.

proudmbalantu
proudmbalantu
3 years ago
Reply to  OneNaijaGirl

Shampoo?? Lol

Ronnie
Ronnie
3 years ago
Reply to  proudmbalantu

And did she way “way back then”, did she read any of the article. Why would anyone try to compare the way they treat their hair and the junk we put in our hair, our lifestyles, climate, processed foods we eat, etc. Someone definitely did not grow up on National Geographic, documentaries, or read a book. LOL.

Jeremy James Jack
3 years ago
Reply to  Ronnie

@ronnie why would you make fun of one of our sisters seeking knowledge of self. You had a teachable moment, but chose to instead use words that would tear down instead of using words that could uplift. Respect and love to you brother, I hope that faced with a similar choice you will choose the latter.

Renee Hatcher
Renee Hatcher
5 years ago

Women of color have to learn how to care for their nature hair have you ever wondered why males when they braid their hair and leave it alone for a week or two weeks at a time how much their hair grows well guess what its the same principle. Part of it is caring for your hair when it is braided. Cleaning the scalp. A little sea breeze. And oiling the hair whike in braid

trackback

[…] The strands that are later separated into 2–4 plaits are formed for the ohango initiation ceremony these are what are known as the Eembuvi Braids. The ritual and adornment of the Mbalantu is reminiscent of what we do when we wear our Box Braids, we prep our hair and many of us use the style to aid our hair growth (protective styling) it’s also and most importantly a beautiful style. The Tribes of Namibia have a variety of beautiful hair styles you can learn more here.Source hairspiration.blogspot.co.uk […]

Amber Wright Moody
Amber Wright Moody
5 years ago

Found the Acacia Tree Bark on eBay!!??? My only question is Is there any difference between the Hawaiian and African varieties?? They even have it in powder form already!!

Sharon Behnke
Sharon Behnke
2 years ago

The authentic oils used by this tribe and the chebe hair oil from Chad is available on eBay from ninjadms. I have used them for the last year with great results. I used to buy great quality hair from ninjadms on eBay but I have my own long hair now.

Dashara Adams
Dashara Adams
4 years ago

This gives me hope lol.… that has a lot to do with less manipulation

ebaiden
ebaiden
5 years ago

where do you find these information ? This is amazing!

Michelle Freeman
Michelle Freeman
5 years ago

Wow their hair is so beautiful … I think I’m going to shed tears and I’m not usually a cry-when-I’m-happy person.

Li
Li
3 years ago

Our hair is ver beautiful. I agree that if we just learn how to take care of our hair and use the right things we willmsee healthier hair and bodies. Everything we use in our hair is absorbed through the scalp into the bloodstream. Healrhy stuff, healthy bodies-harsh chemicals toxic unhealthy bodies. I am in the process of investigating natural products or ingredients and which ones can safely be combined to maintain my natural hair and body.

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