Hair braiding has been around for many centuries – in Africa, it can be traced back as far as 3500 BCE. It was practiced by the ancient Egyptians and is still a popular activity today in many parts of Africa, including South Sudan.
Hair braiding is done to enhance a woman’s – or a man’s – beauty, but it is also a social event among women. It can take a long time to complete a hairdo – up to several hours – so there is plenty of time to talk. Girls learn the skill by watching as older women in their communities make knots and braids in the hair of young children. They practice the designs on each other, learning traditional patterns and inventing new ones. Some of the styles are tribe specific, and often the length of the braid is extended with string-like materials. Sometimes colorful beads or other materials are woven into the hair.
Micro braids, or invisible braids, are a popular style among girls in South Sudan today. These are braids that are very thin - from a distance they appear to be threads woven into the hair. Once in place, micro braids will stay in place for months if left untouched. Below, students at St. Bakhita School in Narus, Sudan, are engaged in the art of hair braiding during their free time.