Cornrows, tresses, braids, and single plaits are all an integral part of black history. They are not only a figment of beauty, they tell us something about our origin, indeed, but they also go to the very core of our African roots. Diverse braiding hairstyles that exist today are a reflection of the rich and attractive heritage embedded in our culture. They reveal the intricately woven hair depicting custom, tradition, and the very being of womanhood.
Taking our minds on a little time travel to the colonial times, it is speculated that perhaps, the African colonizers saw the strong cultural attachment the Black people had with their rich spongy hair and felt a strong compulsion to detach the people from their roots completely. Hence, the heads of slaves were shaved as they were shipped to lands foreign to them. Little did the colonizers know, that even if they did that, they could not take away what lies deep in the heart of the Black people, a belonging that has bound them in times past, and would forever bind them even in times to come.
And so, the Black people who were taken captives endured it all, grew back their hair, and decided to use it as a tool to pass a message. Since they weren’t afforded the luxury of writing materials, enslaved Africans in their ingenuity, creativity, and show of resistance, making use of their God-given asset to tell a story of their slavery. Cornrows especially were the main tools serving as maps to direct them as to how to flee the plantations and homes of their colonial masters or even to save rice just in case there was a shortage of food. Although in an unspoken manner, the captives could communicate loudly right under the watchful gazes of their masters. For instance, the number of cornrows could depict the number of roads and exits, secret passages, and the likes. Now, isn’t this something to be proud of?
As time went by, even the braided hair was looked down upon as a sign of backwardness. This became so widespread that people were discriminated against just for having tufts of hair which was spongy; it became a symbol of embarrassment. This then led to finding ways to mask the African identity through the use of chemicals to straighten the African hair.
However, times have evolved now and braiding has risen through the odds of discrimination and travails to recognition of self-acceptance and pride. Women in all fields of life now take more time to intricately weave their hair, adding beads to even accentuate their African values, custom, tradition, and sense of belonging.
Braiding has given women a sense of recognition of their sensuality and sexuality; the power decoy and allure. It has also infused in them immense strength and a voice that says that “We are African, We Are Beautiful, Strong and Resourceful. We are unapologetically for the Black Race, so you have to Respect Our Roots!”