African Hair Styling: The Mathematics of Cornrows

Nok9a
Nok sculpture of a woman

Today, we will be talking about hair, African hair, and hairstyles. One of the very common hairstyles used for Afro hair is cornrows. These were worn by women and men of centuries past as seen on Nok sculptures dating back 3rd century AD, Mende masks, Benin Kingdom masks, and are still worn today with great pride. Kings and queens adorned those like crowns. The great Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia wore them proudly! Imagine my surprise when I found a website where they had computed the way cornrows are made. Cornrows use about 4 geometrical concepts: translation, rotation, reflection and dilation. The styles are numerous ranging from simple linear compositions to complex curves and spirals. Check out this website and learn about the mathematics behind cornrows! Enjoy!

screenshot-of-cornrow-curves-simulation-software
Screenshot from CSDT.rpi.edu

5 thoughts on “African Hair Styling: The Mathematics of Cornrows

    1. Yes… in some cases, particularly in latin America, African slaves made escape maps on their braids… they braided the maps for their escape on their hair as a style. Interesting right?

      Liked by 1 person

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