For the May 2020 issue of Vogue, Rihanna chose to represent with a beautiful, classic hairstyle. Her hair was styled in what is called the Betsimisaraka hairstyle. Such homage brings awareness to the distinctive styles that women of color display.
The Betsimisaraka Hairstyle Originates From Madagascar
What makes this hairstyle so iconic, is the fact that Madagascar was discovered by women. Tropical and serene, this island is located off the east coast of Africa. The natives that inhabit the land carry Indonesian genes. A vessel arrived 1200 years ago on the island holding 30 women. It is a possibility that they sailed off course. Extensive DNA studies have traced today’s residents to these 30 women, who probably mated with African men who were already there. Indonesia and Madagascar have a distance of 5000 miles. So their trip across the Indian Ocean was quite a lengthy one.
Madagascar prides itself on having a mixture of Asian and African descent. They have many tribes, one of them being Betsimisaraka. Plaiting hair is seen as important to one’s beauty among their women. The Betsimisaraka hairstyles includes 5 tufts, 2 on each side, and one behind. They also wear numerous plaits that are not fully braided at the end, as Rihanna modeled.
Gold and silver pins are sometimes put in their plaits, right above their forehead. Other ornaments used are crocodiles teeth, bones, or shells. In the late 19th or early 20th century, the way you wore your hair let people know your rank and financial level. The rich would wear many silver and gold ringlets in their hair. Married women would wear their hair twisted up. Unmarried women would let their hair flow over the shoulders. In the year 1822, the Europeans arrived, and they introduced their unique way of styling hair. But that did not stop the Madagascar women from wearing their native hairstyles.
A Barbados Singer Who Pays Tribute To Culture
“I feel like I have no boundaries. I’ve done everything – I’ve done all the hits, I’ve tried every genre – now I’m just, I’m wide open. I can make anything that I want.” – Rihanna
This is not the first time Rihanna has shown love for her people. Just recently she donated $700,000 to Barbados so her people can have respirators during this pandemic. And for the cover of her Limited edition i-D Rihannazin cover, she sported cornrows. Her stylist for both magazines was Yusef Williams, a British-Nigerian. Cornrows are another popular African hairstyle. They have been seen in ancient paintings dating back to the early 5th century BC.
Our motherland is where civilization started. So many inventions that began in Egypt have reached every corner of the globe. This includes different stylings of hair. How amazing. Our roots don’t only grow past our scalps. They have grown to touch many hearts.
What classic African hairstyle do you like to rock? Comment, like, and subscribe.
History of Madagascar, By William Ellis, Joseph John Freeman