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A Regional Walk Through the History of African Hair Braiding                                             

Hair braiding is strongly identified with certain cultures across the globe, but evidence supports that Africa was the birthplace of this form of expression. Thanks to its depiction in various artforms, it can be traced back to at least 30,000 years ago, and it continues to be a way for communities to identify themselves, create bonds, and pass down traditions. The earliest drawings of braids in Africa were found in Ancient Egypt, dating back to 3500 BC, though Namibia’s Himba people’s red, pigmented strands have been around for as long as they’ve needed to protect themselves from the sun. In Sudan, young girls adorned mushat plaits, signifying sentimental time spent with matriarchs, and illustrating the poignant role femininity has played in preserving culture and traditions for generations. West Africa boasts an abundance of hair braiding styles, many of which have influenced global Black culture and trends for decades.