When it comes to hairstyles, Africa is the place to be. From Algeria to Angola, from Benin to Botswana, from Egypt to Eritrea, the whole continent is popping with an abundance of gorgeous traditional hairstyles.
Some of them can be rocked (with cultural sensitivity, of course) just about wherever you are. But some are totally unique to the peoples they originated with, and remain exclusively local hairstyles.
We don’t have time to show you all the hairstyles that have come out of Africa – got all day, anyone? But we’ve picked six of our favorites. Whether you want to go for an African-inspired style for your next look, or just admire the beauty of these women’s hair, these pictures are awesome to look at.
In Ethiopia, coffee is a major deal. It’s one of their main exports, they’re super famous for it, and the average Ethiopian drinks four cups of strong Arabica coffee every single day. This young woman is taking part in a coffee ceremony, a major feature of Ethiopian culture.
But let’s be real. It’s her braids we just can’t keep our eyes off of. Some people call this style Tigray braids, or you might hear them called Tigray shuriba as well. They’re popular with the ethnic group known as the Tigray, and also with the Amhara people, too.
Two of our favorite features of Tigray braids are:
- The braid that runs in the opposite direction down the middle of the head. This then splits in two, each part going in the opposite direction. This frames the face and almost looks like a pretty headband.
- The height of those braids, whoah! In Tigray braiding, the heights of the braids are varied, with some standing up tall and some flat to the head. To get the tall braids look, a braid is made flat to the head, then other braids are made on top of it.
This style is a definite possibility, especially for a special occasion. If you can locate an Ethiopian or Eritrean beauty shop near you, this could just be your next style.
Omo Valley Hairstyle
The tiny little strands in the Omo Valley hairstyle almost look like super thin dreadlocks. But actually they’re twists. These Ethiopian woman use ochre to coat their hair, then twist it into these cute little strands.
We love the shape of the hairstyle, with long bangs framing the face then scooping down to the neck. You probably don’t have any ochre at your beauty supply store (!) but you could easily replicate this look with tiny braids, twists, or faux locs. We think this would be an awesome style to experiment with if you get crochet braids.
In the hairstyle of the Himba, another dreadlock-like style, ochre is the main ingredient, too. We think it’s amazing that the people of Omo Valley in Ethiopia and the people of the Himba in Namibia are rocking remarkably similar hairstyles, over 3,500 miles away from each other!
In Namibia, a fat, butter and red ochre is mixed together in a paste known as otjize, which the women rub over their skin and hair to give it a red sheen.