Narrations relay that cornrows are the oldest braiding style. According to history, a French ethnologist and his team discovered a stone-age rock painting depicting a woman with braids feeding her baby. Braiding styles and patterns were a unique way to identify a person’s tribe, age, marital status, wealth, power and religion.
Today things have changed. Hairstyles are more or less a means of beautification. They don’t indicate a person status or tribe anymore. Mandinka can wear a Fulani braid, while a Jola can do a Serer braid. People wear hairstyles according to their preference, and every time people braid their hair, the style is different.
TYPES OF BRAIDS IN GAMBIA
When someone says I want to plait cornrows, it means they just want to braid simple cornrows with no extension or feed in. Children and school children mostly braid cornrows in different styles, from the ponytail to the zig-zag cornrows. This type of braids is allowed in many schools. Elderly women also love to do them because it is faster. In The Gambia, you don’t have to go to a hair salon to have beautiful cornrows. In every compound, one or two people know how to do them.
Raawu is the twist braids either with extension or natural hair only. This style of braiding is very well-loved by locals. It is also very expensive to do because of the unique technique involved in twisting the hair. Not many people know how to do this type of braid. It is mostly done at the salon, and it takes a longer time.
Life is the box braid hairstyle. The braid can also be made with extension or braided using your own hair only. Many do this hairstyle with extensions. If you want to braid life, you can have good ones in hair salons or ask a Gambian friend or family to do it for you at a better rate.
It is a Wollof word meaning carry along. It is the cornrow feed in hair braiding. Because natural hair is braided along with the hair extension, locals began to call it tibalé. You can braid beautiful tibalé at salons. Sometimes you can find some people who know how to do this braid nicely as well. It is good to know that the tibalé is a painful braid because the hair is pulled together firmly to keep it tight. You might want to take it off the first few days because of the painful tension. It is always good to look for someone who doesn’t pull the hair tightly or ask the person braiding you to reduce the pressure. Gambian women will still do this hairstyle and bear the pain for the first few days.
TRADITIONAL BRAID (LÉTU CHOOSAN)
Traditional braids are not very common now. They are braided only during special occasions, events, ceremonies and performances. You can find people with traditional braids in cultural performances, wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies, musical videos or beauty pageant contests. Many salons don’t have people who can braid the traditional braids, but you can find someone among the tribes who can braid their traditional hairstyle.
When in The Gambia, you might want to get it for yourself. It will be easy to find a lady with good braiding skills and fast hands, used to braiding for many years. If you can’t find her, we know some. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be happy to help.