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In the early 1900s, people of Rwanda were known for a very elaborate hairstyle called AMASUNZU, which was very popular at the time. The hairstyle was traditionally worn by Rwandan men and unmarried women, with the hair styled into crests. 

Amasunzu hairstyle is mostly described as crescent-shaped, was designed by cutting some of the hair sideways in a curved shape that is wider in the middle than at its ends towards the top or back of the head and then leaving it to grow.

This intricate hairstyle indicated the social status of a person in the society. Not until the 20th century, the hairstyle was so popular that men who did not wear Amasunzu were looked on with uncertainty. Rwandans wore the hairstyle in 30 different ways.

Amasunzu also represented different roles and stages in the lives of men and women, when worn by warriors it symbolized strength and bravery. It was used to mark the marital status and virginity of women.

After the age of 18-20 years, Rwandan unmarried women wore the hairstyle as a way of indicating that they are of marriageable age, and after marriage some women let their hair grow freely.

According to Theatre and Film Artiste John Kennedy Mazimpaka, 54, there were even competitions on who had the best Amasunzu design. He said: “The young were always very anxious to be enough to sport the style”.

As of today, and because of colonialism and westernization the Amasunzu hairstyle is no longer as popular as it was in the early 1900s.

Mazimpaka said: “if we open our arms to go back to our roots, we should do it proudly and wholeheartedly for the general society to benefit”.

Unknown to many, Lupita Nyong’O the cast of the wildly popular blockbuster Black Panther had rocked the traditional Rwandan Amasunzu hairstyle at the evening red carpet of the 90th Academy Awards.

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Grace Amos

1 Comment

  • Cultural background and heritage are powerful.

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