Cornrows, bantu knots and more: How African-inspired hairstyles continue to be a staple

Gerard Ortiz
Sho Madjozi.

Sho Madjozi.&#13

Frazer Harrison/Getty Visuals

  • Braids have been a aspect of many Black women’s hair journey from a younger age.
  • As we mature more mature, we may possibly return to braided hairstyles for functional functions or as a form of self-expression.
  • Black women of all ages all around the planet put on intricate hairstyles impressed by African cultures, as witnessed on Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and other folks.

My first braids and plaits were being finished by my mother, as I sat in between her thighs, on a carpeted flooring, just about every Sunday. I now shell out two to three hours every month at my dependable salon in the Joburg CBD, handing the extensions to my hairdresser and her assistants for them to intertwine them with my hair. These experiences are universal amongst several Black females.

No matter if you braid your hair for sensible uses, this kind of as chopping down on the time used styling it, as a protecting answer or type of self-expression, braids are an integral component of our identity. Our inspiration is drawn from several Black icons, like our political heroes, celebrities, mothers and grandmothers, as well as the intricate braid variations of the distinct African tribes that date again countless numbers of yrs.

Hair artist and stylist Nikiwe Dlova states, “Our African culture — the earlier, present, and the upcoming — inspires me to generate signature models. Our society pushes us to rejoice who we are and to be creative, which drives me.”

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Early inspirations

A single of our earliest reminiscences of a Black girl rocking a chic ethnic hairstyle was when the late Miriam Makeba donned beaded cornrows with a braided beehive whilst belting out The Simply click Track in Paris in the ’70s. At a time when Black persons were being gravely oppressed, her hairstyle served as an assertion of her delight as an African.

The hanging picture of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela outdoors the home she was exiled to in Brandfort, Totally free State in 1977, clad in a silk doek around her beaded cornrows is symbolic of power and vigour.

Nevertheless, African hairstyles ended up not only a political assertion. They also turned a sort of expression, promoting all-issues Africa. Celebrity Brenda Fassie appears in her debut video for Weekend Special in 1983 donning very long cornrows.

Lebo Mathosa and Thembi Seete of Growth Shaka came on to the kwaito scene in the early ’90s sporting extensive thick blonde braids. Thandiswa Mazwai has been rocking cornrows throughout her audio career. These types became, and are nevertheless, a celebration of freedom and self-acceptance.

Worldwide celebs have also produced their mark. Brandy Norwood is nearly generally carrying distinct styles of braids — she manufactured her style debut on the I Wanna Be Down tunes movie rocking bob braids.

Many thanks to Alicia Keys, cornrows became popular all over again in the early 2000s. Her debut tunes video for Fallin’ in 2001 features a younger Alicia rocking intricate cornrows less than a fedora hat. That glance turned a major magnificence craze soon afterward.

The regal Miriam Makeba donning a braid beehive on phase at the Olympia in Paris on 18 June 1974

The late Miriam Makeba in beaded cornrows with a b

The late Miriam Makeba in beaded cornrows with a braided beehive.

Getty Photos Daniel SIMON/Gamma-Rapho by way of Getty Illustrations or photos

Alicia keys with her signature beaded plaits

Alicia Keys in cornrows at the Pre-Grammy party, 2

Alicia Keys in cornrows at the Pre-Grammy occasion, 2001.

Getty Photos FrankMicelotta/Getty Images

Thandiswa Mazwai has been participating in in her individual hair lane for as extensive as we can remember

Singer Thandiswa Mazwai attends the Mandela Day: A

Singer Thandiswa Mazwai at the Mandela Day party 2009.

Getty Visuals Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela exterior the residence she was exiled to in Brandfort, Totally free Point out

The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in beaded braid

The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in beaded braids.

Twitter @KgomotsoNkomo/Twitter

R&B singer Brandy in her signature cropped braids at the 1995 Billboard Audio Awards

Brandy Norwood sporting cropped braids at the Bill

Brandy Norwood sporting cropped braids at the Billboard New music Awards, 1995.

Getty Visuals Evan Agostini/Liason

Browse Much more | African trailblazers

Contemporary inspirations

Afrocentrism is all the rage right now. Black Panther amplified African aesthetics, although attractiveness influencers proceed to have the most significant affect on the increase of organic hair and ethnic types.

Blackboard Africa co-founder Amonge Sinxoto states, “My hairstyles are impressed by African icons — from Mam’ Winnie to actress and UN activist Nomzamo Mbatha — who encourage me to keep on being real to myself in how I display up aesthetically.”

Hairstylist Bomzi Lekgoro adds: “I started off styling braids creatively in 2017. I preferred to rejoice our hair and exhibit how we are ready to experiment with different braided variations.” 

Sho Madjozi arrived on the new music scene with her massive hit Dumi Hello Telephone in 2017, sporting vibrant beaded plaits and cornrows in her movies.

Again in 2019, her hairstylist Princess Ndlovu mentioned, “Doing Sho Madjozi’s hair is a fantastic and resourceful challenge. She is motivated by African tribes these types of as the Fulani and Tuareg, and we are presently experimenting with vibrant colors.” 

Several other influential media personalities such as Amanda Black, Lunathi Mampofu and Nandi Madida continue on to reinvent retro braid hairstyles.

Internationally, Solange Knowles continues to direct the pack. Keep in mind the assertion blonde cornrows at The Fulfilled Gala in 2018?

Her stylist Shani Crowe has been quoted as indicating that she’s inspired by indigenous African art. Other American celebs that embrace this proudly African aesthetic include Yara Shahidi, Tracee Ellis Ross and Lupita Nyong’o.

Amandla Stenberg enjoys possessing exciting with color


Amandla Stenberg in colourful braids at the Once-a-year AAFCA Awards 2019.

Getty Photographs Prosperous Fury/Getty Visuals

Sho Madjozi’s inventive braids have motivated quite a few youthful Babsence girls

Sho Madjozi for Dumi HiPhone music video.

Sho Madjozi for Dumi HiPhone audio movie.

Instagram @ShoMadjozi/Instagram

Actress Lunathi Mampofu’s inexperienced beaded braids have been a hit

Lunathi sports green beads that look like braids.

Lunathi sporting activities green beaded braids.

Instagram @LunathiMampofu/Instagram

Hairstylist Mimi Duma developed Amonge’s search for Queendom journal

Amonge Sinxoto for Queendom Magazine.

Amonge Sinxoto for Queendom Journal.

Instagram @A_Monge/Instagram

Shani Crowe has developed intricate and display-stopping designs for Solange

Tribal braids for a Solange video.

Tribal braids for a Solange video.

Instagram @ShaniCrowe/Instagram

Rihanna for British Vogue in Madagascan hairstyle

Rihanna for British Vogue.

Rihanna for British Vogue.

Instagram @BritishVogue/Instagram

Beyoncé sports Bantu knots in ‘Black is King

Beyonce in Bantu knots for 'Black Is King'.

Beyonce in Bantu knots for ‘Black Is King’.

Instagram @NealFarinah/Instagram

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