#WomensLives: 50 Years of Nigerian Hairstyles

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Ojeikere's stunning hair photos are captured in a book.
Ojeikere’s stunning hair photos are captured in a book.
Not so long ago I shared with you that I would be highlighting some great stories about women around the world in partnership with PRI’s #WomensLives initiative. Well, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share this story, posted today, about the work of the late Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, who captured over 50 years of Nigerian hairstyles in stunning black and white photographs.

The hairstyles are amazing and each one is imbued with meaning. Many of them harken back to the styles my co-author and I wrote about in Hair Story, in the chapter about pre-colonial hair practices. In general, one’s hairstyle said something about one’s identity. So, a person with a lot of status in the community, for example, would have a very elaborate hairstyle, man or woman. On the other hand, a woman in mourning, would wear a very subdued style. Each family also had their own style that served as an identity marker. Viewing these pictures of Ojeikere’s makes me believe that the significance of the hairstyle has not changed much over the years. They are still clearly a source of identity as well as style.

Of course Black people aren’t the only ones who use the hair as a medium for identity messages. What about you dear readers? What does your hair say about you?

I’m listening.


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2 Thoughts to “#WomensLives: 50 Years of Nigerian Hairstyles”

  1. Ms. Meltingpot

    Thank you for sharing your story. That is really amazing that you’ve been able to donate so much of your hair and that in your own way it’s become your super power. Totally cool hair story!

  2. I’m one of those people whose bodies gave up on giving them height and continues to funnel that energy into growing hair. It’s a little ridiculous how fast it grows.

    That aside, I do tend to look at my hair as holding a sort of spiritual power. I feel subtly different when it’s long enough to shape into interesting styles or blow in the wind than when it’s short enough to curl on its own and stand up on end in the mornings. (I could do without the epic bed-head, though.)

    Since I was a teenager, I’ve been growing it out to my waist, cutting it off to my jaw and donating what got chopped to organizations providing free or low cost wigs to kids who’ve lost their hair due to cancer or other diseases resulting in hair loss. Those little ones are already feeling terrible, and girls are usually hit especially hard when they lose their hair. If I can give some of that subtle power to someone who’s suffering so badly, I’d like to.

    Last time, my husband and I both donated to Children With Hair Loss.

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