Skip to main content

Braids: The Way to Freedom

Photos Camilo Alzate González / Rodrigo Grajéales via Altair Magazine

I want to share this incredible braid story and important piece of history, passed to me from my dear friend Sarah Rotterman.

San Basilio de Palenque is the first village freed from slavery in the Americas.  Deep in the jungle it’s located in Bolivar, a northern department in the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

The way to freedom for these slaves was woven in a very particular manner: On their hair, through braids.

The braids were a way of communication between women. As they were not so monitored, they could sneak along the paths and spy on their masters. They could see the landscape, rivers, mountains and the stationed troops of the Spanish army. They wove in their hair what they saw and created maps illustrating the traveled paths.Photo Jose Alberto Mojico

In this way the slaves, led by Benkos Biohó, planned the escape, armed with what would be a compass of hair.

In their tangled hair, women also hid small pieces of gold and seeds that they could later grow in their free villages. This way they guaranteed future food security for the community.

The braids had two points: the starting one that indicated the way out and the other one was the escape route.

Photos Camilo Alzate González / Rodrigo Grajéales via Altair Magazine

They’ve been giving names to the hairstyles ever since, some of them are:

“Separate braids” that symbolize the freedom, those that are separated from each other.

“Balay” or “The Edge” is the braid that was used to twist the edges of the baskets for cleaning rice, corn and other grains.

“Puerca Paria” or “Farrow Sow” – The meaning is fertility,  both on the ground and in the belly of a woman.

Photos Camilo Alzate González / Rodrigo Grajéales via Altair Magazine

“The Mesh” indicated that an escape was already planned.

“The hearts” was the sign of respect and love of the woman to her beloved who was absent and the comb was a song of waiting for his return.

The braids for the Palenqueras have been a symbol of resistance, union, freedom and reaffirmation of their origin.

Photo Cristina de la Concha. IG @cristinadelaconcha

Deepest thank you to Sarah Rotterman who compiled and translated this story :

Sources:

http://blogs.elespectador.com/actualidad/cattagena/palenque-y-la-eterna-resistencia

http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-10180608

Free Your Hair.

xo, HTHG

 

 

 

Related News

Talking Vision, Inspiration, Society, and Hair with Brittani Sensabaugh

I found Brittsense a week ago while combing through Losthairdressers, which is one of my...

Feminist Society of Pensacola Pit-in!

Hey babes. Here is an awesome submission from Emily, and the front lines of the...

Tribe de Mama Guestpost: Earth Medicine for your Hair and Skin

Hello dears. I wanted to take a minute to share a post I wrote for...

One Comment

  1. Metanoia

    Very interesting article, thanks! Braids belong to one of my favourite hairstyles, I think that it’s one of the most beautiful and interesting on many ideas for experiments 🙂 And I adore how african braids are unique in their beauty and sacred meaning 🙂
    Also I think that the same story can be in case of men, in more ancient times such hairstyle rather often has a special meaning too… And that’s cool that it became fashionable again, the modern ideas for masculine braids look cool too, like on these photos http://machohairstyles.com/best-braids-for-long-hair/ for example 🙂

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart