Cultural Significance of the Braid

Starting Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was interesting because the majority of the first chapter was centered around the hair she wanted. I did not understand why Ifemulu was so obsessed with braids, why she wanted that hairstyle so bad. After thinking many times to myself that it is just a part of the story– nothing more, it kept agitating my mind throughout my day (I did not know I cared that much). So, I decided to look up a possible significance of braids in African culture. With that came many results of historical importance of braids. I was honestly surprised considering the fact that I used to think that braids were simply a hairstyle/fashion statement. But, now I am rethinking everything I have read so far. I think that the point of braids in this story is far more complex than a new fad. Her new hairstyle is a symbol for her culture/race. It is also saying a lot that her Nigerian family does not want her to get those braids, it could be compared to how she struggles in America as an African American woman: how the majority of people she encounters (and eventually writes about) either insult her race/culture to her face or imply something racist. The braids she gets are a symbol representing that she is embracing her race/culture, and despite the conflicts she is being faced against with her father or fellow Americans around her. I also think that this symbol plays into the characterization of Ifemulu. She is a strong, independent woman who is confident in herself enough to go against the norms to embrace the culture that is constantly being put to shame. The picture I have attached to this post is a good visual of the type of braids I imagine Ifemulu getting. top-quality-braiding


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