Traditional Yoruba Hairstyles
Beautiful Hairstyles From Yoruba Culture
The Yoruba people are one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria. They are predominantly scholars, farmers and traders.
The women are very creative when it comes to style, beauty, fashion and hair. Their history and folklore influence their traditional and even modern designs, which are generally grouped by styling method.
The two basic methods are handmade plaited hair (irun didi), and hair that is tied with thread or braided (irun kiko).
Traditional Styling Implements
Amazingly, these hairstyles are created using simple tools.
- Oya: a wooden comb with three teeth that come in various sizes.
- Local hair cream: traditionally used for braided styles.
- Plastic plaiting threads: used for variations of both braiding and weaving.
The Traditional Significance of Yoruba Names
Every Yoruba hairstyle has a significant name that celebrates an occasion, historical event or aesthetic design. Some signify social status, marriage, sophistication, youth or grieving, while others can represent social commentary.
The shuku (a.k.a suku) hairstyle—which involves braiding to form a hump on top of the head—has a significant place in Yoruba hairstyling. There are many variations of this popular style.
This simple style is sometimes complemented with side plaiting. This hairstyle was traditionally reserved for the wives of royalty, but is now common among young ladies, school girls and married women.
The simplicity of it makes it less time-consuming and easier to execute than other more intricate designs. Different types of suku are suku elegbe, suku na poi, suku onididi and suku sesema.
Others are sinero kiko, suku fula, suku ologede and twin suku. Some ceremonial suku have plaited braids that cascade down on all sides and are attached to the hump. Modern types of suku involve intricate plaiting to form flowers.
Commemoration of Monuments
The Eko bridge hairstyle represents a bridge in Lagos, Nigeria. The stylist divides the hair into 10 or 11 sections. The thin braids are then twisted to form a bridge-like focal point above the head.
The hair is made to look like a road roundabout. The stylist divides the natural hair from the center of the head into small triangular sections, leaving the hair untouched at the back. They then plait with plastic plaiting threads from the middle of each triangle. Thereafter, the long strands are intricately woven into a circular design.
This hairstyle is to commemorate the building of the national theatre in Lagos, Nigeria. It features a depression in the center, resembling the monument.
Ogun pari literarily means 'end of the war'. The hairstyle was created to commemorate the end of the Nigerian Civil War.
The natural hair is divided into large sections and plastic plaiting thread is used to make long, thin braids. The braids are then bent into large arches, connecting the thin tops to the bottom of adjacent braids.
Identifying Religious Beliefs
The Ere hairstyle identifies worshipers of the deity Esu. Esu is believed to protect travelers and have powers over fortunes and misfortunes.
The style involves a single, long growth of hair at the front or center of the head. The single strand resembles a pigtail, which has religious significance in that faith.
This male hairstyle identifies members of the Aragberi clan. They are noted for ancient knowledge of magic and herbs. It also identifies members of the Mesa royal family of the old Oyo.
Some Yoruba believe that when a child dies before the age of 12, the spirit is reborn into their family. These abiku children have hair shaved on either side every two weeks.
This ritual honors the deity Osanyin, the god of medicine. Court messengers also wear this hairstyle.
The Dada hairstyle depicts the person’s spirituality. Some Yoruba believe that natural, dense hair has religious significance, so hair is often left to grow into dreadlocks from a young age. This hairstyle is associated with the deity Olokun. Parents believe that if they cut their children's hair, it may cause sickness or death.
List of Hairstyle Names in Yoruba
List of Hairstyle Names in English
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