An old hairstyle is being revived in east Africa. A makeshift salon in Kiberia, a slum in Nairobi in Kenya, is now braiding young girls’ hair into antennae-like spikes or what is being deemed the “coronavirus hairstyle” by many people.
The braids use threading made of yarn instead of synthetic material. The hairstyle costs about 50 Kenyan shillings (Rs 35.49), as opposed to an average hairdo which costs up to 300-500 Kenyan shillings (Rs 212.95-354.91).
“Some grownups don’t believe that the coronavirus is real, but most young children are keen to sanitise their hands and wear masks. Many adults do not do this, and that is why we came up with the corona hairstyle,” Sharon Refa, a 24-year-old hairdresser at the salon was quoted as saying in an interview.
Netizens, however, had mixed reactions to the hairstyle. Some pointed out that it was part of their traditional African hairdo called “irun kiko” or “isi owu” and had nothing to do with coronavirus. The hairstyle is said to have been in practice to boost hair growth.
So, in my language it’s called “isi owu”. It’s a traditional hairstyle Africans have been doing to help children’s hair grow since before Britain even existed. It has zero to do with coronavirus and zero cutting is involved. The hair is simply wrapped in black thread. https://t.co/u8BGX7nrK3
— CheekyChikeTV (@chike_oforka) May 11, 2020
It took me a while to clock they’re comparing our hairstyle to the actual Coronavirus… can’t believe this https://t.co/cgiA2eDVKO
— SANS PITIÉ (@ssozinha__) May 11, 2020
Lool This “spiky coronavirus haircut 🥴” has always been in trend, my mum even did this protective hairstyle for me when I was a kid. It helps with hair growth. It has nothing to do with the virus. For generations many Afro-Caribbean families have been doing this hairstyle. https://t.co/baAj4NYGkn
— Tinofara (@TinofaraNF) May 12, 2020
The hairstyle went out of fashion in the recent years after real and synthetic hair began to be imported from India, China and Brazil and flooding markets and leading to increasing demand among local women, according to reports.
With the deteriorating economic situation in the wake of the pandemic and little or no savings left with people, this hairstyle, however, has turned out to be able to suit the styling needs of girls at a cheaper price. For mothers like Margaret Andeya, it is an affordable way of styling her kids.
“This hairstyle is much more affordable for people like me who cannot afford to pay for the more expensive hairstyles out there and yet we want our kids to look stylish,” she was quoted as saying.
“Covid-19 has destroyed the economy, taken our jobs from us, and now money is scarce. I therefore decided to have my child’s hair done up like this at an affordable 50 shillings, and she looks good,” added another mom Mariam Rashid.
(With inputs from Associated Press in Nairobi)