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9 April 2019 / leggypeggy

Africa and her amazing hairstyles

African hairstyle

This hairdo took more than six hours to create

African hairstyles

Beads and clips make a colourful addition

Nowhere else on earth can compete with Africa’s hairstyles.

I am blown away by the variety and elegance of the creations I see. From large towns to small villages, women (and men) are twisting, plaiting, extending, scrunching, combing, shaving and shaping hair into works of fabulous art. I’m told that especially complicated designs last about a month.

African hairdressing

This style will take 90 minutes

The most elaborate styles can take many hours to complete. The hairdo in the first and last pictures here (taken in the village of Kambama, Sierra Leone) took more than six hours from start to finish and involved countless lengths of colourful extensions. Another less complex style (taken in the same village) was going to take about 90 minutes.

Sometimes women opt for turbans and scarves in place of hairstyles. This isn’t because of bad hair days, but for convenience, fashion and to keep dust out of their hair.

Women's dance, Africa

Turbans are the fashion for an African dance

I admit to being incredibly jealous in every way. My hair is curly, frizzy, fine and fly-away. I’d love it if it could be wrestled into something stylish that would last more than six hours. Several African friends have tried to plait it and given up in frustration. Obviously I need to get them to teach me how to tie a stylish turban.

All the pics here were taken (with permission) in villages in Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. Not all pics have captions.


African hairstyle

A back view of the complicated hairstyle


Leave a Comment
  1. lambsearsandhoney / Apr 9 2019 10:09 am

    I’m always in awe of these fabulous hair-dos, and the commitment of their owners in getting and keeping them – I’m sure they come with a degree of discomfort. I do worry about the effect that the tension on the hair has in regards to root damage and hair loss, though.
    I note that the lady doing hair is wearing a cap that is snugly fitted, suggesting there’s not much under it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 9 2019 4:34 pm

      That cap happens to be a wool beanie. Amazing how we’re dripping with sweat and the locals are wrapped up in wool because it feels cold to them.


  2. Dorothy / Apr 9 2019 10:19 am

    They are very inventive, I remember a new bridge being built when I lived in Lagos and within a week of it opening the ladies had a new hairdo in the shape of the bridge. The men favoured the binto hairstyle with a parting shaved into it like the UK mens hair. They could then pretend they had been to (binto) London.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 9 2019 4:35 pm

      Thanks for sharing that Dorothy. I can just imagine the bridge hairdos. Your reference to binto styles made me laugh.


  3. Lynette d'Arty-Cross / Apr 9 2019 10:21 am

    These hair-dos are amazing! I’m quite lucky with my hair. It’s very straight and there’s lots of it. I used to dislike it so much when I was young, but I’ve come around to seeing its advantages.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 9 2019 4:37 pm

      I know what you mean. I used to wish my curly hair was straight, now I’m glad it’s ‘easy care’.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. CURIOUStotheMAX / Apr 9 2019 10:33 am

    Those pictures of children are as amazing as the hairstyles. FABULOUS photography. The little girl in the orange is gallery worthy.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 9 2019 4:39 pm

      I have lots of pictures of that little girl and her expressive eyes.


  5. CarolCooks2 / Apr 9 2019 10:48 am

    Wow just amazing but the comment about tension on hair acquaintance has these plaits permanently but her hairline has receded somewhat and I am guessing to the continuous tension. Fashion and beauty at a cost but they are very beautiful 🙂 Your images are lovely, Peggy 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 9 2019 4:40 pm

      Thanks Carol. Yes I suspect the constant tension would have an effect on hairlines.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. macalder02 / Apr 9 2019 12:37 pm

    It would not be a business in the West to try to make African hairstyles. It is hard to believe that they last so long. In any case, they are very striking. The photos say everything because they are very well achieved. You have a wonderful experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Apr 9 2019 1:22 pm

    The hairstyles are gorgeous, true works of art. I can barely manage the weight of a pony tail, don’t know how these folks wear their hair in such elaborate designs, but more lucky am I to get to see them here. Adore those little kids, hair done or not. Your photography does this art justice, Peggy.

    Have you read Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible”? It’s a novel about the Congo in the 1960s. She writes about the ritual of the women braiding hair for each other. One of my all-time favorite books.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 9 2019 4:44 pm

      I read ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ years ago and the story still sticks with me. Great book.


  8. efge63 / Apr 9 2019 3:25 pm

    Fascinating. I really enjoyed reading this post!!!!

    Marvelous!! as always!


    Liked by 2 people

  9. fragglerocking / Apr 9 2019 5:21 pm

    Love the photo’s, especially the kids, lovely.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. beetleypete / Apr 9 2019 5:49 pm

    I have had close-cropped short hair for so long, (even before much of it fell out) I cannot imagine ever having anything resembling a ‘style’. Those ladies have a lot of patience, in the quest for a good hair day. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. pvcann / Apr 9 2019 6:10 pm

    I have a friend from Zimbabwe who braids her hair, it is so amazing, these photos show how creative hair styles can be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 9 2019 7:26 pm

      I wish I could show you more of the fabulous creations. I’ll stay on the look out.


  12. derrickjknight / Apr 9 2019 7:39 pm

    A beautiful post

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Green Global Trek / Apr 9 2019 8:23 pm

    Wonderful ! Makes me homesick.


    Liked by 2 people

  14. ralietravels / Apr 10 2019 1:00 am

    The hair is great, but looking at the people, the portraits are wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Gilda Baxter / Apr 10 2019 1:13 am

    I have hair envy now 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. janesmudgeegarden / Apr 10 2019 7:33 am

    These people are so beautiful and photogenic quite apart from the complicated hairstyles. I wonder if the first one is heavy? And what about sleeping? That could be a problem! I recently read about the amazing and innovative fashion styles in Freetown, perhaps you’ve seen some of those too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 10 2019 7:41 am

      Fashions and fabrics all over West Africa are incredible. I wish I could walk around wearing a GoPro camera on my head and photograph the outfits I see. The colours are fabulous and the designs are so flattering. Not that any of them would look one-tenth as good on me. Next time I see an elaborate hairstyle, I’ll ask if it’s very heavy.


  17. Chris Riley / Apr 10 2019 8:51 am

    Those plaits, imagine how long it must have taken to do. I’d love to see the hair when the plaits are removed for a re-style. I wonder if they ever get bugs in their hairstyles when they last so long.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 10 2019 9:03 am

      We see lots of kinky hair which may be the aftermath of plaits. Not sure about bugs. We don’t see anyone scratching. 🙂


  18. Alison and Don / Apr 10 2019 2:48 pm

    I’m so in awe of how they do this. And I love their imagination, and fearless use of colour.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 10 2019 4:13 pm

      When we were in West Africa 10 years ago, there was a greater emphasis on turbans. Now hair seems to be winning.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. thewonderer86 / Apr 10 2019 6:29 pm

    The hairstyles are fantastic, but give me short hair any day – 6 hours to get your hair done, the thought makes me stir crazy!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Sande Olocho / Apr 11 2019 12:53 am

    Very authentic shots!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Simply Style By J / Apr 11 2019 6:24 am

    I love your posts about Africa. It’s so interesting to read how you break down everything you learn and witness. It sounds new and exciting to me even as an African from Nigeria!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Sy S. / Apr 14 2019 12:18 pm

    OK Peggy Weisemheimer! How did you sneak in this post, with a few other posts after this one… I just now saw this one.. As people said many good portraits of people and interesting hairstyles. I love the one “Beads and Clips…” and the girl with the big smile from ear-to-ear, beautiful set of teeth and big eyes… and the girl next to her also smiling. And I am assuming the men, just get short haircuts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 9:14 pm

      Good to know you caught up with this post. The girls in beads and clips have wonderful smiles.


  23. Zambian Lady / Apr 19 2019 1:19 am

    This is a way of life for most Africans. Back in Zambia, salons would be packed on Saturday mornings with women preparing for bridal showers or weddings taking place that afternoon. On Sundays, they would be packed in the afternoon in prep for the work week. The goodness was that everyone could afford going to a salon. You can imagine my shock when I moved to DC and I could not afford to go to the salon at will! My other shock was that non-African colleagues would not recognize me when I had a different hairstyle. What?!! I always play with my hairstyles and people still talk about that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 20 2019 7:48 am

      Not recognise you because you changed your hairstyle!!!! I’m shocked too. Hair is fun, but it isn’t our identity. I really value your comments, especially because you understand Africa.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. jeanleesworld / May 10 2019 8:47 pm

    So beautiful, and so true–I also have frizzy, fine hair that goes all wiry after just a few minutes in the humidity. These women are wearing art, and I cannot help but be jealous. xxxxxxx

    Liked by 2 people

  25. etravelersclub / Nov 27 2022 7:34 am

    Interesting look into hairdo and style. Happy travels.

    Liked by 1 person

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