Bantu knots are short, tree-stump-like spiral knots of hair wrapped around itself. A Bantu knot can be pyramid or tube-shaped in appearance.
The striking aesthetic appeal of the Bantu knot is achieved by wrapping three, four, five, or six knots on an entire head, with the flatness of the scalp between the knots enhancing the style.
There are a few ways to style and wear Bantu loc knots, but let's first discuss the basic style.
How to Make Bantu Locs 101
You don't necessarily need long dreadlocks to make Bantu knots, but having long dreadlocks will give you more aesthetic style options.
However, your dreadlocks should be at least six inches long before you try styling them into Bantu knots. Don't force the style or wrap it too tight on your head.
Wash your locs with organic clarifying shampoo and dry them out entirely. Don't style your locs if they are damp.
Then, section the hair on your scalp into box-shaped sections. The larger the box-shaped section, then the larger the resulting Bantu knot will be.
Twist and coil each section of loc strands until you form a small coil in the center. And then wrap the remainder of the loc strands around the coil as you form the Bantu knot.
Don't twist or coil or wrap your locs too tightly.
Then, just tuck the ends of your locs under the knot to keep the style in place.
Now that you know how to make a basic Bantu knot, it is essential to discuss the hairstyle's history.
The Bantu knot and even the word "Bantu" are heavily burdened with African history. And depending on how you use the word in Africa today, the word can be considered an insult to some.
Here is what you must know now about the Bantu knot and its origins in Africa.
Too many people use and appropriate this sacred hairstyle without appreciating its history or people. And if you rock the Bantu loc style, we hope that you would want to know about it.
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History of the Bantu and the Origins of the Bantu Knot
Since many ethnicities have culturally appropriated the Bantu knot hairstyle, let's briefly discuss the origin and history of the word.
When you wear Bantu locs, you are wearing the history of colonial Africa on your head, whether you know it or not.
"Bantu" is a word that describes an African ethnic group and the term "people." The word was coined by the Zulu people of Africa, themselves a part of the Nguni ethnic group.
The Bantu people were initially known as the "Abantu" but were renamed the Bantu by European colonialists. European colonialists first made contact with the Abantu in the early 17th century but didn't rename them the Bantu until the mid-19th century.
As previously mentioned, "Bantu" is a Zulu word meaning "people." Bantu is the plural form of the Zulu word "umuntu," which means "person.
The Bantu as an ethnicity probably dates back as far as 1000 B.C.E.
The Bantu ethnic groups of Africa are known for their artistic and creative skill in building habitats, structures, fortresses, and pits.
The Karanga, Kalanga, and Venda ethnicities, who all speak variants of Bantu, were at the forefront of a relative African renaissance in societal, cultural, and architectural excellence between the 10th and 15th centuries.
The Khami Ruins of Zimbabwe, a stone-structure complex built in the 15th century, is a testament to the architectural prowess of Bantu-speaking peoples.
Archaeologists are still unearthing valuable Bantu artifacts that speak to their ancestry's creative and societal drive.
However, the Bantu people are not a monolith ethnicity. The Bantu represent over 350 million Africans who live in central, southern, and sub-Saharan Africa. Bantu people speak several hundred distinct languages and just as many dialects.
European colonialists in the early 20th century developed academic research programs to study the influence and reach of the Bantu in Africa since they noticed the Bantu cultures and languages were pervasive.
The Department of Native Affairs, an Apartheid-era institution, decided that the Bantu were an inferior and primitive people. The DNA then devised an initiative to relocate and separate Bantu people from their native lands to dilute their cultural influence and weaken their societal cooperation across their various ethnicities.
The word "Bantu" has evolved to mean several things in Africa. As previously mentioned, the word refers to a vast African ethnic group and is a term for "people."
But as used by apartheid authorities in the Department for Native Affairs, the term "Bantu" became a byword for "native" in the same way that the words "Native Americans" or "Aborigine" are used to describe Indigenous people in the Western world, even though they are the original inhabitants of the land.
In the late 20th century, there was a spirited attempt by African revolutionists and freedom fighters to reclaim the original power of the Bantu term and make it a term describing black unity.
But the effort did not prosper. In modern-day Africa, Bantu may be viewed as an offensive term unless it is used to describe the languages of the Zulu who coined the term. And while Bantu people still exist, the word has a derogatory connotation to colonialist rule and societal meddling outside of those ethnicities.
The Bantu Knot
So, depending on how you use the term Bantu and geographically where you use it, it may be a derogatory term designed to denigrate native Africans and separate their culture from their ancestral lands.
However, the word has a different connotation outside of Africa. The Bantu knot is a popular hairstyle in Western culture that various Zulu and Bantu ethnic groups wore.
We use the term "Bantu knot" all of the time without appreciating the history of the term, which may have been the goal of the colonialists who appropriated the term.
But if you decide to wear Bantu locs, we hope you will appreciate and share the term's history.
Bantu knots may be a hairstyle that is popping with celebrities and models now. Still, it is an African word that is heavily burdened with colonialist history within Africa and the diaspora outside of it.
So, there is nothing wrong with wearing Bantu locs because you like rocking the aesthetics of the style. But we hope that you will hold your head a little higher wearing your Bantu locs and understanding the power of the history that comes with that hairstyle.
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