Hair History - Fulani BraidsJan 16, 2021 08:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
Whether it is on Instagram, T.V., the runway or just everyday life, you’ll find many women rocking different types of braids as a protective style. Braids are a staple protective style for Black women, and come in an endless variety of styles.The history of braids dates back to 3500 BC. One style of braids, Fulani braids, recently found popularity with celebrities like Beyoncé, Rihanna and Solange, rocking this style.
The look has been modernized recently with Fulani braids usually being cornrows in the front and box braids in the back, and can be worn with or without beads. Hair has played a significant role in the culture of ancient African civilizations and so have Fulani braids. Fulani braids originates as a style worn by the Fulani or Fula people. They are an ethnic group in the Sahel region and West Africa, mainly Mali, Senegal, Guinea and Cameroon.
They are a nomadic pastoral community and are primarily Muslims. Many Fulani people were captured and brought to the United States between during the slave trade. The traditional Fulani style was long hair being put into five long braids that either hang or are looped on the sides, with a coiffure in the middle of the head, with the hair decorated with beads and cowrie shells. Sometimes they adorned their braids with silver or bronze discs, often passed down from generations.
Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys started rocking this style back in the 2000s and Black Americans started referring to them as ‘Alicia Keys braids. When Fulani braids found popularity again in 2017 after Beyoncé’s album Lemonade showed a variety of braids, many referred to them as tribal braids, but not attributing them to the correct tribe. Many American may have seen this style of braids in the 1979 film 10 worn by actress Bo Derek.
In 2018, Kim Kardashian received backlash when she wore the style and wrongfully credied them to Derek. This sparked conversation of correctly accrediting the hairstyle to the Fulani people and calling them Fulani braids. The current popularity of Fulani braids and other braiding styles makes it important to not only call them by their correct name but to know the history behind the style.
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.
She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.