The love affair that we have with our hair is a deeply rooted and is one that can be traced back to Africa. The times that were spent grooming hair was often shared by family members and those of the same tribe. The intricate styles and the intricate grooming tools were all symbols of who a person was as well as what tribe they belonged to. The way you wore your hair told a lot about you to others and just like today, many countless hours were spent on grooming African hair. The person that wore their hair in disarray was considered unattractive, possessing bad morals, or believed insane or unclean.
We wear our hair in many styles today, however significant styles that have managed to transcend throughout time and is worn today are braids, plaits and cornrows. The wearing of these three styles can be traced back to 3000 BC where women wore them with various decorations and through out many cultures. The wearing of braids can also be seen in ancient paintings from India, the Anasazi (American Southwest) and Native American Indians a like. The African’s hairstyle was used to identify one’s status in society, the tribe that a person belonged to, marital status, age, religion and their rank in the community, basically your hair told your story. However, the person that wore their hair in disarray was considered unattractive, possessing bad morals, insane or unclean. The more intricate the person’s braided style the higher up in society they were perceived and the less intricate the lower in society.
The length of a woman’s hair was indicative of her prosperity, her ability to produce bountiful crops and bear plenty of healthy children. The hair was also considered the gateway for spiritual beings to pass through the soul. The way one wore their hair in Africa was just not for making your hair look good or to show off your beauty, it was basically to tell a story, your story. The same concept has carried on today however well groomed hair does not indicate your ability to produce bountiful crops or bear children how ever it is reflective of how a person feels about them selves and the importance that they place on self worth. I would be amiss to say that how well a person’s hair is groomed is not related to prosperity or the importance that they place on their hair’s upkeep.
The fact that their hair was one of the most valued pieces of African culture and marked their identity when they were taken into captivity by Europeans the act of having their heads shaved was considered dehumanizing. The act of shaving their head was considered the first step in taking away their identity by Europeans. The tools that the African’s used to groom their hair also bore significance and was also a large piece of your identity. The tools intricate carvings showed social status, wealth, and what tribe a person belonged to along with other personal details. The tools that were used to groom African hair was also left behind when they were captured and taken into slavery.
The rite of passage when it comes to our hair dates back to the 16th century. The art of grooming hair was practiced back then and it was shared by family members or members of the same tribe. The craft was passed down to daughters by mothers and with gentle hands they were taught to care for their beautiful tresses and take pride in their hair. The same holds true today as we either pass down the craft to our daughters or create relationships with the hair care professional of choice. The way one feels when their hair has been groomed to the max is unparallelled to the many feelings that we experience as African Americans. The same amazement and puzzled looks from those that don’t have kinky, curly, coily locs really don’t differ from those that laid eyes upon African hair early on nor does the heart filled with pride, boldness to rock your kinky hair alter that much either.