Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Shuruba – an iconic Ethiopian hairstyle !

We all know that hair is an outer expression of culture and heritage. It’s true that apart from being an image of personal elegance, most of our contemporary hair styles that are donned by folks in Ethiopia are not merely reflections of fashion. They run deper than sheer craze. In other words, the hairstyles we see at present, be it those of gentlemen, ladies, or children are all intensely ingrained in our past. A two-hour or so drive north, south , east or west of the country will depict this fact, as you will be able to witness the numerous hairstyles of women and men: Sadula, Zerantϊch, Gədera, Gofəre, Gufta, Eshem Dereb, Gungun, Mərtu, Shuruba, Gutena, Nazrawi, etc. While it calls for deeper analysis to discuss each type of hairstyle in their cultural and historical contexts, today’s piece deals with solely the one that is still very popular and trendy no less than it was in the earlier era – the shuruba. Among the ones mentioned, some seem to communicate a range of symbolic meanings than others. Shuruba is one of them and is a kind of hairstyle that puts on plaits tightly braided to the head and fuzzing out at the shoulders. Originating in the northern part of Ethiopia, shuruba, used to be hairstyles shared by both men and women, and to this day, people in all quarters of the country are styled with it (of course, in some cases, with hair extensions and bead embroidery). Our beloved emperors and empresses Tewodros (Theodore), Yohannes (John), Menelik’s astute wife, empress Taitu used to beautify their hairs with braids and cornrows called shuruba.

Emulating our Emperrors and empresses, our present day ladies (and in some cases few young boys, too) are seen embellishing themselves with this wonderful shuruba hairstyle. Whether it’s braided as a cornrow or as a free-hanging braid, the amazing shuruba has long become an emblem of pride and patriotism. Fashions, as we all know, come and go with times, and throughout history, society has replicated popular culture icons, be it clothing , ways of life, speech modulations , etc. What’s most astounding with shuruba, though, is despite the counteless diversity of modern-day hairstyles out there in the hair salons, it has still dictated the hair vogue of the day and become the fad of our ladies and few youngsters. Interestingly, though, we don’t see a real comeback of this iconic hairstyle of Ethiopian patriotism with gentlemen, unlike the ladies.

Was it because Ethiopian ladies sense more nationalism, or is it just because they are much closer to styles, or are there some other reasons ? God knows! But one thing is for sure – shuruba has still the potentiial to remain and continue to be the most favored hairstyle for most Ethiopians in the years ahead.

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