20 de November de 2023


How hair is a mark of black culture and beauty

Throughout history, braids and hairstyles have become marks of resistance

More than an aesthetic mark, curly hair is an important theme in the construction of black identity. This is because hair is a political tool and a means of struggle. For a long time, various social behaviours devalued black bodies and important characteristics, such as their culture, their features and their beauty.

That’s why anti-racist groups have started a resistance movement, valuing curly hair and traditional braids, as well as empowering men and women to see their features as beautiful. 

Learn about the history of traditional hair and braids below: 

Black power

The so-called black power is characterised by a voluminous, rounded hairstyle, with the strands forming a crown on the head. In the 1960s, the hairstyle became one of the main symbols of groups fighting for the civil rights of blacks in the United States, who were suffering from racial segregation in the country. 

The Black Panthers were one of them. One of their agendas was the acceptance of black beauty and their hair represented their fight for equal rights, with the slogan “Black is beautiful”. 

In Brazil, hair became more popular in the 1970s, when it came to be seen as something good in the racial experience. Thus, aesthetics ended with the imposition of short hair for men and straightening for women.

Braids and black beauty

Braids from African culture have a connection to ancestry and a symbol of survival during the period of slavery. This is because the hair was often braided like a map showing the way to the quilombos. In addition, seeds were kept in the braids to be planted in these refuges. 

In addition to the symbolic issue, hairstyles affect the self-esteem, security and identity of black women. In African countries, braids had different meanings, such as social position, status, ethnicity and belief, for example. 

Basically, there are four types of braids: 

1) Nagô: made from the root and securely fastened to the scalp. Both natural and synthetic hair can be used;

2) Dreads: characterized by long, thin braids. They are made with your own hair. First the braids are made and then they are enveloped, forming a kind of butterfly cocoon;

3) Afro bantu: also called bantu knots, these are small buns made along the length of the hair and tied along the head;

4) Box braids: these consist of dividing the hair into squares and braiding them to the ends, using natural and synthetic fibres. This hairstyle uses jumbo, a material made of plastic that resembles human hair. 

Braiding as a profession

The Ramacrisna Institute, through the project Building the Future VI – carried out in partnership with Petrobras through the Petrobras Socio-Environmental Programme, offers young people and adults aged between 16 and 45 the course of braiding. This opens up the possibility of working in the ever-expanding Afro-Brazilian beauty market. 

The classes cover work processes and braiding techniques, as well as methods of organising the environment and pricing. To take part, you need to have completed primary school and pass the selection process. 

The course takes place in-person, is 32 hours long and is available to residents of the cities of Betim (Petrovale and Imbiruçu neighbourhoods), Ibirité and Sarzedo (check out the neighbourhoods covered). Find out more about the initiative and get in touch for more information.


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