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The Art of African Hair ThreadingCourtesy of Busayo Michelle Olupona

Is a traditional African hairstyle really a ‘coronavirus trend’?

TextDominic Cadogan

The ‘isi owu’ has been used to help children grow their hair for years, not to raise awareness about COVID-19

Throughout this worldwide pandemic, hair as been a continuous talking point. With the majority of salons closed, people have taken matters into their own hands, trimming their own fringes, dyeing it a variety of bold colours, or shaving it all of completely

In east Africa, a seemingly new look has been dubbed the ‘coronavirus hairstyle’ for its likeness of the COVID-19 shape, with spiky antennae-esque braids sprouting out of the head. “Some grown-ups don’t believe that the coronavirus is real, but then most young children appear keen to sanitise their hands and wear masks. So many adults do not do this, and that is why we came up with the corona hairstyle,” explains hairstylist Sharon Refa to the Guardian. 

In fact, the traditional style – known as ‘isi owu’ or African threading – has been practiced for hundreds of years to help children’s hair grow and simply revolves around wrapping the hair in black thread, nothing to do with coronavirus. “Stop trying to incite the ridicule of African people’s thought process and culture by misrepresenting a piece of their history,” said @rufaroshuva on Twitter in response to an article on Sky News that suggested the style was a new haircut trend. “It’s not even a haircut. It can’t have been revived, it never went anywhere.

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