While travelling its way from Egypt and Africa, cornrows create an immediate connection between people of the community acting almost like a kind of vocabulary.
Not only that but cornrows are also indicative of a variety of social concepts like kinship, age, religion, ethnicity, status and more such things related to one’s identity.
During the Middle Passage or the period in the Atlantic Slave Trade when millions of Africans were brutally ripped from their homes and shipped to the New World (America), according to sources, the heads of the captured slaves were shaved not only as a sanitary means but also to take away their own culture and identity from them.
The African hair is also quite heavy and according to some sources during the Middle Passage was considered ‘unruly’ so in order to maintain a neat and tidy appearance African people started to wear their hair in tight braids like cornrows and more.
But perhaps the biggest way that cornrows helped the African slave population was by providing a discreet and easy to hide way to transfer and create maps in order to leave their captor’s place.
As per sources, Benkos Bioho a King was captured from Africa by the Portuguese before finally finding his way in Cartagena, a port city located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. After attempting several times to escape from his masters, he finally succeeded and went on to build San Basilio de Palenque, a village in Northern Colombia in around the 17thcentury.
The village is a walled city that was meant to be a refuge for escaped slaves and help them get back on their feet.
Bioho not only built the village with other escaped slaves but also created their own language, formed an army and even created an intelligence network in order to find, organize and get them to the liberated areas.
Bioho was the person that had the idea to have woman create maps and even deliver messages through their cornrows.
Since slaves were rarely given the privilege of writing material or even if they did have it, such kind of messages or maps getting in the wrong hands could create a lot of trouble for the people in question, cornrows were the perfect way to go about such things.
No one would question or think that one could hide entire maps in their hairstyle, so it was easy to circulate them without anyone finding out about it.
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