With the rise of Natural Hair has come a rise in traditional styles worn by women of colour, from Cornrows to Box Braids these styles haven’t been so prominent in popular culture since the mid 90’s. In the 90’s cornrows and braids where worn in movies and seen in music video’s often to portray the characters as real ‘home girls’ think Janet Jackson In Poetic Justice and Jada Pinkett-Smiths character in Set It Off.
Today we have global superstars such as Beyonce and Solange Knowles wearing waist length box braids as well as many WOC in fashion and the arts all wearing these styles.
It’s fair to say that the Box Braid has become a stylish way to wear ones hair, worn less as a homage to the ‘home girl’ but nod to African heritage from which it originates.
he rise of the super long Box Braid is reminiscent of the Eembuvi Braids worn by women of the Mbalantu tribes from the Namibia. The Mbalantu girls prepare their hair from a young age, using thick layers of finely ground tree bark and oils, this mixture has been attributed to the great lengths achieved by the women for their later elaborate headdresses.
“At the age of approximately twelve years, Mbalantu girls started preparing their hair for later headdresses. As among the Ngandjera and Kwaluudhi, the Mbalantu girls also covered their hair with a thick layer of finely ground tree bark of the omutyuula tree (Acacia reficiens), which was mixed with oil. The mixture was applied to improve hair growth. A few years later the thick fat-mixture was loosened so that the hair became visible. Subsequently, fruit pips of the bird plum were attached to the hair ends with the aid of sinew strings.”
The strands that are later separated into 2-4 plaits are formed for the ohango initiation ceremony these are what are known as the Eembuvi Braids. The ritual and adornment of the Mbalantu is reminiscent of what we do when we wear our Box Braids, we prep our hair and many of us use the style to aid our hair growth (protective styling) it’s also and most importantly a beautiful style.