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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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Sharon BehnkeJeremy James JackRonnieproudmbalantuLi Recent comment authors
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Guest

Beautiful!!!!!

Tuya Kunz
Guest
Tuya Kunz

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
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Theedeebgee

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
Guest
TuyaKunz

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

Alicia
Guest
Alicia

Very interesting! Does she still have long hair?

TuyaKunz
Guest
TuyaKunz

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

Kimmybee
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Kimmybee

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

TuyaKunz
Guest
TuyaKunz

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
Guest
TuyaKunz

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

kalexa1
Guest
kalexa1

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
Guest
mutago

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

Ronnie
Guest
Ronnie

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 »

lauryn
Guest
lauryn

Gorgeous. <3

Jo
Guest
Jo

Gorgeous! Thank you for this knowledge!

NoTime4Bimbos
Guest
NoTime4Bimbos

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

MagnoliaGirl Phillips
Guest
MagnoliaGirl Phillips

Right!

Chrissie
Guest
Chrissie

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

NoTime4Bimbos
Guest
NoTime4Bimbos

Hey! If we find out, do share.

A.E.
Guest
A.E.

It’s Acacia tree bark in English.

ebaiden
Guest
ebaiden

where do you find these information ? This is amazing!

Theedeebgee
Guest
Theedeebgee

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

MagnoliaGirl Phillips
Guest
MagnoliaGirl Phillips

this is very nice, what an interesting and informative article

Dee
Guest
Dee

Beautiful!

Janice Dickson
Guest
Janice Dickson

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

Kay
Guest
Kay

Why don’t you read the article…?

Torie Amza
Guest
Torie Amza

Bawaaahaaa!!!!

if you say so
Guest
if you say so

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

Kyoko Sakata
Guest
Kyoko Sakata

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

Ronnie
Guest
Ronnie

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

Steve Biko
Guest
Steve Biko

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

TuyaKunz
Guest
TuyaKunz

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

Ronnie
Guest
Ronnie

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

Anita Campbell
Guest
Anita Campbell

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

Michelle Freeman
Guest
Michelle Freeman

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.

Janet Holmes
Guest
Janet Holmes

good answer

OneNaijaGirl
Guest

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
Guest
proudmbalantu

Shampoo?? Lol

Ronnie
Guest
Ronnie

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
Guest

@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
Guest
Renee Hatcher

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
Guest
Amber Wright Moody

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
Guest
Sharon Behnke

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
Guest
Dashara Adams

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

Li
Guest
Li

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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