African Origins

Today we think of cornrows as something we can see just walking down the street, on the basketball court, or on the heads of celebrities.

Can you identify these famous folks with cornrow designs? Click on the pictures below to find the answer.

Cardi B is an American rapper, songwriter, and actress.

Lebron James surprising Dwyane Wade.

Jaden Smith is an American rapper, actor, singer, and songwriter.

Rihanna is a singer, actress, and businesswoman from Barbados.

So where did this style come from? Who created it?

We know a bit about African cornrow traditions because of research that has been done by the people who study culture.

Sylvia Boone was an art historian who attended Brooklyn College. She was the first to study cornrows as art in Africa. When she asked why they created so many different cornrow styles, they said “because the style tells people who you are”. The styles let people know your age, whether you are single or married, which religion you belong to, which social group you are with, and so on.

We can find out more about the history of African hair by looking at art from ancient times. See if you can match the ancient art to a modern style.

How to Play:

Click and drag an art example to a modern African style (on the right) that you think is a match.

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