How the roots of our heritage start with a strand of hair.
By Bethany Whittaker
Black hair is politicized. Black hair is a statement of truth. Black hair is the crown on which we create and uplift our glory.
From African tribal styles to braids, afros, curls, and dreads. With hair that defies gravity, Black hair has a story to tell if you just listen closely.
Tusk Black Voices traces the strands of three Black hairstyles through the roots of our history.
Not only are braids a great protective style for our hair, but it tells a story with each strand and design. It all started in Africa where the oldest image of braiding can be found along the Nile River by an ancient burial site known as Saqqara.
For many years, braids represented the tribe from which we belonged. Warriors and kings were known to have more intricate braiding, while those of lower status kept it simple. It’s easy to see just how influential they are because now we’re reinventing those same braiding styles to exhibit our beauty, essence, and creativity.
Box braids, goddess braids, knotless braids, and cornrows are some of the few styles that haveoriginated long ago that we still see today.
Dreadlocks are referred to as dreads, locks, or locs. They form by not touching it at all, which then knots onto itself into dreads. In the Himba tribe of Namibia, dreadlocks are known to exhibit one’s age, wisdom, and marital status.
Dreads today are a representation of Black people soaking in every inch of their melanin.
In order for the dreads to grow and flourish, they can’t be cut nor brushed at all. This connection to locs creates a bond between Black folks and our crown as they are a symbol of experiences that we grow through.
Nigerian women call them geles. Ghanaian women call them dukus. And in African/Black culture, headwraps are the epitome of taking your circumstances and turning it on its head as they were once used to demean and defeminize Black women.
Headwraps turned into the symbol for saying “fuck oppression” as they became a mark of rebellion. So now, headwraps are worn in celebration as a unique and fun twist on our hair to what was once seen as a symbol of insignificance.
As we embrace our natural hair, the headwrap has become a savior for those “I just don’t feel like it” days where we say “fuck it,” wrap it up, and go about our way. In turn, it creates a feeling of wholeness and connection to our roots and community.
Black hair is more than style, it is the sheer ancestry that we carry atop our heads every day of our lives. The crown that makes us royal and a symbol of celebrating and loving who we are.