Monday, June 13, 2011

Cornrows and Dreds: Black Hair History

Photo "African girl" by: istockphoto.com/poco_bw

"When the African people were torn from their cultures during the Atlantic slave trade, many forms of silent resistance arose. Some of these were in the ancient African tradition of cornrow braiding and locking hair." Continuing our series of blogs on the sociology of fashion we  investigate the anthropological and sociological significance of traditional African hairstyles which have become popular in our western hip-hop culture. From the book: Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, "White people remarked, “dreadful” to the unattended locks of slaves emerging from the ships after months of voyaging in unhygienic conditions. The “a” was later dropped to remove the negative connotation from the term dredlocks." (Page 125). More than an elaborate expression of beauty, the origins of cornrow styles have profound hierarchical, social and religious meaning. Based on trigonometric concepts, a wide variety of architectural spirals, lines and curves were developed. While the designs are highly mathematical, ancient African peoples most likely braided using creative intuition combined with teachings by older members of the community. In the United States cornrows continued to develop and merge with European trends and Native American styles. Below are some interesting links to informational resources regarding natural African hair, including an interesting talk given by ethno-mathematician Ron Eglash - regarding the mathematics and fractal patterns seen throughout Africa which continue to be reflected in the cornrow hairstyles even today; and the wonderful online educational software application "Cornrow Curves" for history, understanding and the making your own cornrow designs.  Watch Oscar Winning Lupita Nyong'o Show off her braiding techiques,


Carol's Daughter -"Fulfilling the Beauty Needs of the Diversity of Skins that Make up the Tapestry of our World..."

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