The Art of African Hairstyles


- 25/08/2020-

The history of African hairstyles is long, and embodies a creative and deeply symbolic expression of identity. This history begins in prehistory, of which we have kept as a witness statuettes such as the Venus of Willendorf (-33 000 BC) which already had a braided hairstyle.



Braids would thus be a millenary hairstyle. However, African Hair traditions which are elevated to the rank of art, really developed from Antiquity. The Egyptians with their braids adorned with gold threads, or the Nubians known for their fine dreadlocks were particularly famous in this field. But more commonly, the art of sculpting hair became throughout the continent, embodying social rank, imbued with spirituality and symbolic meanings specific to each ethnic group.

In West Africa, the Fulani, also known as Foulani, Fulbhés, Pular, or Foulah, form an ethnic group located in about twenty countries, and whose art of braiding is a full part of cultural heritage. As nomads, their techniques have often evolved with their migrations. The crossbreeding has indeed greatly contributed to the diversification of styles. But in general, the Foulah hairstyles are characterized by their very sophisticated forms, and a pronounced taste for details that can be found through the many ornaments in pearls, cowries (shells), gold or silver pieces or in the weaving of the hair itself.  Real masterpiece of hair sculpture, this braid illuminates the heart of our models Foulah and Foulahstyle paying homage to the culture of these tribes of West Africa, in a refined version with pastel tones.

Marker of creativity and sophistication, the traditional Foulah hairstyles and more generally the art of African hairstyles have lasted through the years and have gained visibility. They have been honored by famous women such as Alicia Keys or Solange Knowles. In the same line, the artist J.D 'Okhai Ojeikere celebrates African hairstyles through his art with the desire to preserve this tradition. Throughout his career he has collected photos of braids and plaits of all kinds, stating that "African hairstyles are part of our culture. I wanted to photograph them to keep them in memory". His minimalist style of black and white photography has allowed him to make a name for himself as a pioneer in African photography.