Kenya

"The similarity of people is as different as the hide of a zebra." —Kenyan proverb

Like other crafts, hairstyling and body adornment reflect the ebb and flow of time and place, individual and communal aesthetics. In communities such as the Maasai, Samburu, and Kikuyu, women traditionally shaved their heads, while men styled their hair in “locs.”

Now in urban settings, braided hair is ubiquitous and reflects the globalization of hairstyling options for women of African descent across economic strata.

Kenyans have also adopted body adornment practices, notably henna tattoos, that reflect Middle Eastern and South Asian influences.

FESTIVAL PARTICIPANTS

Jane Wanjiru has specialized in braiding African hairstyles and designs for over ten years. She became interested in braiding at a young age, when she discovered her inherent talent which later translated into a career. Her philosophy is, “there are as many braiding designs as there are human beings.”

Farida Rashid Mohamed and Fatima Simba are henna painters and body decorators. The materials she uses, henna and pico, are locally available and can as well be improvised from the immediate environment.

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Photo by Kiprop Lagat, courtesy of Museums, Sites, and Monuments, National Museums of Kenya