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Thursday, 20 November 2014

The History Of Braids - Part 1

By Amanda Hawker

      
My grandmother always said, “Hair is a woman’s crowning glory.” It’s an ancient idiom,  that seems to be still true today. For centuries, we women have pulled, plucked, coiled and twisted our hair. We've dyed and bleached, cut and blown, curled and straightened. With the advent of the natural hair revolution, many of us led the way in discarding the toxic chemical relaxers and reverted to a more natural way of taming our tresses and even realised that allowing your tresses to go untamed was also okay. Throughout the centuries, the innovations and fads, there is one hairdo that has remained a beloved constant…braids.

                                 

Hairstyles come and go, but braids are forever.
Braiding hair is an ancient technique that goes back thousands of years and braids can be found in at least one culture on every continent of the world. In Africa, the practice of braiding can be traced all the way back to 3500 BC (that’s 3500 years before the birth of Christ) and was a very important part of the daily life and culture of many African peoples. In ancient times, braiding hair was considered a social event among women, a time to get together and connect while also creating beautiful braided hairstyles, most notably cornrows and in Egypt, the braided wigs worn by royalty.
I've worn various types of braids since my teenage years, preferring cornrows to single braids as the former are gentler on my hair. Yet, I had never really thought about the history behind my choice of hairstyle. What an amazing and proud history it is.

                                       
                                
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be delving into the history of cornrows and braids, and how people have used them as a form of cultural expression and even activism.
Next week, we take a closer look at the history of the braided hairstyle that is synonymous with Africa… cornrows.


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Amanda is a Cape Town based writer. She loves history, music, writing, travelling and HBO TV series. Her favourite writers are Ken Saro Wiwa, Stephen King and Toni Morrison. In her spare time she writes short stories and explores the lesser-known tourist spots of Cape Town.  ................................................................................................................................................................

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