African Hair and it's Significance: Connecting to our Spirit

Uploaded by OnixIsis on 23.05.2009

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{\*\generator Msftedit;}\viewkind4\uc1\pard\f0\fs20 It's just hair (repeat 6x)\par
\par It's culture its heritage its socially significant
its powerful it links us to our people it gives us strength and holds us steady its
important and I'm going to tell you why. \b 00:22\b0\par
\par It's probably a good guess that african people
have been braiding manipulating styling loving locking their hair since before recorded history.
You can assume so because even in our most ancient of recorded history we show mastery
of our hair. Images on the walls of our ancient cities of Kemet, Ta na Hesi or Nubia, Kush
and sculptures depict scenes of great rejoice when it came to taking care of one's hair.
\b 00:53\b0\par \par
In sculptures, great detail was given to the intricate significant hairstyles along with
other physical aspects that were considered significant. After all, if you are an artist
representing your people wouldn't you accentuate the highest aspects of your culture. \b 1:11\b0\par
\par There was reference made in the book, "Hair
in African Art and Culture" to Boris de Reischweltz's "Black Eros" as it makes numerous references
to parallels among hairstyles in sub-saharan Africa and pharonic egypt it goes on to say
that (quote)"Unfortunately little evidence exists to link the provocative examples observable
in ancient Egypt and Nubia with the many of the more recent coiffures recorded in the
photographs and sculptures to be seen in this exhibition"(end quote) However, my surface
research revealed several very noticeable styling similarities that continues across
ethnic and cultural lines of modern day Africa. \b 1:53\b0\par
\par If we're going to start with Kemet and Kush
let's find correlations of hair similarities that continue today. Granted my knowledge
of ancient symbolism is elementary at best, but i don't think i need to know the inner
workings of symbols to draw correlations to the images seen here....with the images seen
here. But I digress, this video isn't going to be about trying to prove the OBVIOUS connection
to ancient Africa. \b 2:24\b0\par \par
In many African cultures hair is seen as a pathway to the soul because its the highest
point on the body and therefore is the closest to the most high. Because of this, care of
one's hair is usually only trusted to a particular family member or close friend for the rest
of your life. The reason being is that if your hair gets into the wrong persons hands
they could essentially cause you harm.\b 2:48\b0\par \par
It is because of this spiritual significance that great care was given to the maintenance
of one's hair. Hair could be groomed for special ceremonies. In traditional African spiritualities
ceremonies and rituals are done to recognize deities, ancestors, the most high and are
even done for special time in one's lives. \b 3:10\b0\par
\par During rites of passage ceremonies, hair would
sometimes be shaved or cut into designs, braided twisted or structured. Our hair is considered
as the proof, the mark of God's design and thus is always integral in spiritual life.
And it is something that is instilled from birth. Fontannel hair, for example, a patch
of hair that's left on the softest part of a babies head, serves as protection against
bad spirits. Throughout sub-saharan Africa the cutting of a child's hair for the first
time demands ritual. The babies mother carefully keeps the cut hair in a basket which is justified
by the fear that hair likened to the soul may fall into the wrong hands. However, design
isn't always singular. In many cases it serves a dual purpose that straddles spirituality
and ethnic identification.\b 4:07\b0\par \par
In many cases hair would tell the onlooker information about what people you belong to,
your stature in the community, and if you are unmarried or married. For instance, young
Peul or Fulani girls wear very tight longitudinal braids going from forehead to nape falling
down the shoulders in the back while transversal braids emerge from the sides of the head.
Adolescent Fulani girls have tight braids separated by symmetrical parting and a coiled
tuft on either side of the head. Unmarried Woloff girls partially shave their heads while
leaving a little tuft of hair on the top. In other instances some warriors cut their
hair off before going to battle to be left with their mother's or wives. Chiefs or elders
in the community would usually cover their heads to signify their importance. So as you
can tell hair is an important identifier not just to outside people but also within the
communities. \b 5:09\b0\par \par
Next let's examine the quote unquote stuff that is used to obtain the optimal appearance
of many of today's hairstyles. Ochre is used to color the hair as well as to protect one's
style. The most recognizable people who use this are the Masaai. However, the Himba, Kavango,
Banza, as well as other groups use this as a hair aid. Beads, shells, stones, gold, silver,
shea butter, palm oil, butter fat and vegetable fibers are some of the other things used as
well. \b 5:44\b0\par \par
Vegetable fibers are used to extend the hair. And when we talk about this it's important
to know that hair extensions aren't a product of White colonial rule of Africa. Even the
most ancient of our ancestors wore wigs and extensions. However back in those days the
use of false hair was to obtain a different AFRICAN hairstyle because some of the styles
defied even real hair capabilities. \par \par
Before the advent of plastic hair you can buy from beauty supply stores, African people
used human hair and vegetable fibers. Men would weave the hair of their wives into their
own hair to create long flowing locks. Vegetable fibers were used to extend and wrap around
the hair as seen with the Himba people. False hair was used to extend the hair over structures
and was used in addition to human in hair to create the Okuku wigs as seen with these
Benin queens. However, the one theme I have notice hair extensions are used for is to
create long flowing dreadlock-like hairstyles like the Mbalantu of Namibia. \b 6:51\b0\par
\par It is a popular belief that dreadlocks originated
with the Rastafarians of Jamaica. This is untrue. However it is important to note that
Rastafarians should be given credit for re-introducting the daughters and sons of the diaspora back
to the beauty of African hair. I have heard different reasonings for the dreadlock aesthetic
of Rastafarians, one is that hair is the extension of God and the soul and should not be manipulated.
It needs to grow as does the roots of a tree in its natural form. Another view is that
it is used to represent the mane of the Lion of Judah. In either case it is seen as a spiritual
connectiveness to the most high. This theme is echoed in many cultures of Africa. \b 7:35\b0\par
\par Within the Asante culture, priests hair was
allowed to grow into long matted locks called Mpese Mpese. Priests or priestess in any one's
culture are spiritual forces in their community. Again the theme of hair connecting to the
sould and the most high is continued here. \b 7:54\b0\par
\par In Benin Yoruba religion, ihiaga or dreadlocks
signify you as a devotee of Olukun, the deity of water. However, being born with ihiaga
or that special curl requires a life as a priest or priestess. More manicured looks
can be seen on the Masaai and Himba peoples. Less noteable groups with locks are the Fang
of Gabon, the Turkana, the Mende, the Pokot, and let's not forget the Africans in the diaspora.
\b 8:25\b0\par \par
Remember earlier when I stated that there was a similarity that carried across different
ethnic and cultural boundaries? Well, this style seems to be the one connective fiber.
As seen in the images on the ancient walls this style of hair has continued until today.
The importance of the head in African culture is seen through our love of hairstyles. The
inner head is the most important part of culture and spirituality, however, I think that the
design details that we give to the outer head is the one that we make manifest from the
inside. \b 8:55\b0\par \par
According to Yoruba theology, "although the physical head is highly valued because of
its social and biological importance as a site of perception, communication and identity
it is regarded as no more than the outer shell for the inner head." It is also called Ori
Oje or external head. The desire of the harmony between the two aspects of the head is expressed
in the popular prayer "Ori inu mi ko ma ba ti ode je," may my inner head not spoil my
outer one. It is my belief that this style is an attempt to reach the most high. An antenna,
if you will. Maybe if the people who wear have lost the original meaning, their soul
has not. \b 9:38\b0\par \par
As African people, we have continued to cultivate the art of hair, even if we don't know why
we do it. As Africans in the diaspora, who's history and culture has been stripped, stolen,
raped its a wonder that any of us know anything about who we are. It is even more amazing
that something so simple as hairstyling was non-existent in our diasporan culture for
many hundreds of years. But when given the freedom to explore identity through hair we
have continued a legacy, a history, a culture. It is my belief that we should never discredit
hair in our culture as something insignificant. Its and identity that I am proud of and you
should be to. For my ancestors and for the future generations I will be the continued
legacy. It's NOT JUST HAIR. Ase(Ashe) \b 10:27\b0\par }