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Captured in southern Angola by German photojournalist Mario Gerth, these vivid images show the striking hairstyles worn by women of the Mumuhuila and Mucawana tribes. Mumuhuila women sculpt their hair into imposing horn-like shapes, using materials such as butter, oil and mud. Some wear waist-length beaded wigs, woven into the hair and embellished with shells, beads and buttons.

Angola Tribe Hairstyle
Angola Tribe hairstyle

Aside from their beauty, the hairstyles serve as signifiers of a woman’s status. Married women of the Mumuhuila tribe attach an ostrich feather to their hair to express their married status, while young girls wear a vikeka necklace starting from puberty until they marry. Young women who have had their first period wear distinctive beaded wigs, denoting that they are not yet ready for marriage.

Angola Tribe mud piece

This reveals the significant role hair has in revealing and upholding tribal traditions and customs. As Gerth states “African hairstyles are ever-changing, yet deeply rooted in a shared past stemming from tribal traditions. Every tribe has its own style, and then within one tribe we can find even more styles – for men, women, children, for those who have been widowed, and many more. Hairdressing in Africa is always the work of trusted friends or relatives. Hair in the hands of an enemy is believed to become an ingredient in the production of a dangerous ‘medicine’ that would injure the owner. I found this aspect very interesting.”

Angola Hairstyle (1 von 13)
Angola Hairstyle (3 von 13)
“Hair in the hands of an enemy is believed to become an ingredient in the production of a dangerous ‘medicine’ that would injure the owner”
Mario Gerth
Angola Tribe and beads
Angola Tribe neck beads
Credits

Text Emma de Clercq
Images Mario Gerth

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