More Than A Hairstyle: How Braids Were Used To Help Free Slaves

portrait of an young African with braids, isolated on white

Nowadays, braids are a protective and creative style women use to show off their personal style, their creativeness or protect their hair and scalp. But centuries before, braids were much more than just a hairstyle.

Braids are a part of the tribal customs in Africa. The braid patterns signify the tribe and help to identify the member of the tribe. The cultural significance and roots of braiding can be traced back to the African tribes.

There are many interesting beliefs associated with braids. Braid patterns or hairstyles indicate a person’s community, age, marital status, wealth, power, social position, and religion.

 

Depictions of women with cornrows have been found in Stone Age paintings in the Tassili Plateau of the Sahara, and have been dated as far back as 3000 B.C. There are also Native American paintings as far back as 1,000 years showing cornrows as a hairstyle. This tradition of female styling in cornrows has remained popular throughout Africa, particularly in the Horn of Africa and West Africa.

Historically, male styling with cornrows can be traced as far back as the early nineteenth century to Ethiopia, where warriors and kings such as Tewodros II and Yohannes IV were depicted wearing cornrows.

Elaborate patterns were historically done for special occasions like weddings, social ceremonies or even war preparations.

People belonging to a tribe can easily be identified by another tribe member with the help of a braid pattern or style.

girl with braided bun

Immense importance is given to the custom of braiding. The person who braids hair performs it as both a ritual and a social service. It is an art form taught by the senior female member of the family to her daughters and close friends.

This history of braids goes even deeper when you talk about Columbia. Enslaved Africans first started arriving in Colombia in the 16th century, brought there by

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