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A definitive guide to all the hairstyles worn by the babes of Nollywood


TextTochi AnueyiaguTextEbele Anueyiagu

Wigs, braids, geles, and more – Tochi and Ebele Anueyiagu of @nolly.babes explore the looks of Nigerian cinema

Welcome to Rooted, a campaign celebrating the power of black hair and the launch of ‘Tallawah’ – an exhibition by photographer Nadine Ijewere and hairstylist Jawara Wauchope. Here, we explore what the beauty of black hair is all over the globe, from Jamaica to London and New York to the screens of Nollywood films. 

Hair is an integral part of the Nolly Babe aesthetic. For women, black women in particular, our hair is one of our main forms of self-expression and adornment. Our hair holds so much power that it literally defies gravity and is so threatening that it has been heavily politicized in the western gaze. In Nollywood films – from what we like to refer to as the Golden Era of Nollywood (the mid-90s to the early 00s) – viewers can feast their eyes on a huge variation of hairstyles, from the more traditional to more western or modern styles. With each role, hair functions as a clue into the identity of the individual the actors are portraying, further showcasing how hair functions as so much more than a stylistic choice for a character. 

Superficially, Nolly Babes came through with some of the most iconic and stylish hairstyles of their time. Never ones to shy away from making a statement without having to say a word, Nolly Babes were on the cutting edge when it comes to black hair. You name it, Nolly Babes did it – blonde braids, Fulani braids, braided wigs, pink wigs, faux locs, all the way through to Geles that rival Frank Gehry’s structural masterpieces. These women and men set trends, influencing not only Nigerians but black people all over the diaspora.

@nolly.babes was created to showcase the beauty of black people all across the spectrum – of all sizes and complexions. We wanted to show how undeniable our beauty is and our hair and unique way of styling it is a part of that beauty. Our hair is part of our identity as black women and this shit is for us.

So, as experts of all things Nollywood, here is our definitive guide to all the different styles you might encounter when watching a Nolly film. 

FULANI BRAIDS

Fulani Braids, originating from the Fulani tribe which can be found across West Africa and notably in Northern Nigeria. Not to be confused with Bo-Derek ANYTHING. These youthful braids served as the perfect style for Tracy Daniel as she evolved into a rebellious daughter much to her parent’s disappointment.

NIQAB

The Hausas and many other tribes from the north and south-west regions of Nigeria represent the Muslim population in Nigeria. Their film industry, popularly known as Kannywood, is a great platform for showcasing how a niqab can amplify the beauty of the Nigerian woman as seen here in Jarida – one of our favourite Hausa language films.

OMBRE

I dare you to find an earlier image of the colourful ombre style displayed here that is now all over Instagram. Clarion Chukwura was and IS a Nollywood style icon. She has consistently pushed barriers and this hairstyle is no exception. Zenon girl of the 21st century, but make it grown and sexy.

MATCHY MATCHY

The turn of the millennium was all about matching but how many of us can say we matched our hair to our outfits? Clarion can. We’ve been seeing a lot of pastel pink wigs over the past five years or so, but again Clarion did it FIRST. She even gave it a Nolly Babes twist with the stark black highlights à la Christina Aguilera’s Stripped era. This hair says she isn’t here to play.

DADA

Dada – the Nigerian slang term for Locs. Emeka Enyiocha is seen here with a short version which is yet another Nollywood trend making a comeback (see Rickey Thompson & Denzel Dion). Dada was always considered the hairstyle of people not looking to conform to societal norms and that still rings true to this day. Just take a look at the ‘Alté’ movement bubbling up in Nigeria today. Dada is the #1 item in alté artist starter pack.

PICK AND DROP

Before lace fronts and sew-in weaves, there was pick and drop, a style whereby the braider braids hair at the roots then lets the extensions loose. Beyonce had a lot of pick and drop hairstyles back in her early Destiny’s Child days and this style is almost identical to her typical style and colour. Monalisa Chinda’s pink clip and matching accessories complete this Baby Girl look.

HATS

HATS HATS HATS! Nollywood is unmatched when it comes to the hat game. From monogrammed bucket hats to kangols and visors – no Nollywood icon is truly complete without a sick hat game. Here we’re getting the iconic Louis Vuitton multicolour monogram with a brim that Cruella de Vil would be envious of. 

BOB

Anna Wintour who? Eucharia is seen here rocking the PERFECT bob wig made out of microbraids. A bold cut and a ravishing colour – Eucharia does it again.

BLEACHED

Give Jim Iyke his FLOWERS! Truly a hairstyle pioneer, Jim broke down barriers with this interesting take on the infamous Sisqo blonde ‘do. The black stripes on the blonde hair give us the ultimate bad boy vibes.

BRAIDS

For many of us (black women), just looking at these braids evokes memories of sitting in one chair for HOURS on end getting our hair braided. It’s a shared experience amongst black women across the globe. Hard to ignore the amazing colour job done on this too.

GELES

The above images are taken from the film Danger Signal and that’s exactly what these Geles are. These traditional headpieces and architectural masterpieces let you know that the wearer is not one to be played with.

DU-RAG

Every black home has a du-rag lying around somewhere but it takes real finesse to turn it into a stylish addition to an ensemble. Eucharia Anunobi manages to turn hers into a sleek and modern headpiece letting her stunning facial features take front and centre.

LOCS

This is what Burna Boy meant when he said ‘Dada cover my face, calling me Lagbaja’. We mentioned earlier that Dada is the ultimate non-conformist hairstyle in Nigerian society, but it’s an even bigger statement when women wear locs. These Nollywood juggernauts Genevieve Nnaji and Patience Ozokwor look BEAUTIFUL in these styles and definitely give off all the badass vibes their characters in these films required.

JEWELS

A winning combo – Mercy Johnson’s immaculate ghana weaving and jewel hair accessories. Jewel hair accessories are making a serious comeback and jewel-adorned cornrows were even seen on the runway at the Andrew GN SS20 show. Who says jewels were only made to adorn our bodies?

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