The Amasunzu Hairstyle: A Traditional Rwandan Haircut

At the 90th Academy Awards, Black Panther’s cast stunned the world with their stylish looks. Lupita Nyong’O’s hair, in particular, was the talk of the town. Hairstylist Vernon François styled her hair into three braided crescents wrapping around her head with gold thread woven in. Though it felt unique to many, the Amasunzu hairstyle heavily inspired Nyong’O’s hair.

The Amasunzu was a traditional Rwandan hairstyle. Hair has always been an essential part of their culture. The love and care put into the hairstyle show that. There more than 30 known variations.

The Amasunzu was more than just fashion. It represented where someone was in life and their place in society. When warriors wore it, it was a symbol of bravery and strength. Other men wore as a symbol of status and wealth. 

In some cases, even women wore it. It usually was an indicator that a woman was a virgin and eligible for marriage. After marriage, many would grow their hair out.  

The hairstyle took a lot of hard work, which is why it became such an important symbol. The haircut would slowly take shape over time by cutting the hair on the sides and letting it grow to the middle in crescent-shapes.

People loved getting creative in how they wore the Amasunzu, and many villages held competitions to decide the best designs. Children dreamed of the day they would be old enough to wear the hairstyle.  

The hairstyle fell out of style over the last century, primarily driven by outside forces. During the 1885 Conference of Berlin, Europe parceled up Africa in one of imperialism’s most significant crimes. Years of colonial control and turmoil, and genocide radically transformed Rwandan culture.

Despite cultural shifts, the Amasunzu is coming back in style for younger generations. Many people see the hairstyle as a way to get back to their roots and move past years of pain and suffering.

Here are some fantastic photos of the Amasunzu hairstyle.

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Amsunzu hairstyle 4

Photos courtesy of neotorama.com

Alan Behrens

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