Sunday, 3 March 2013

What's in a name? Part Three: Cornrows

Finally got round to completing the final instalment of the “What’s in a name series”. Go here to read the first part and here for the second part. I love cornrows for the simple fact that you can create a variety of patterns on your hair using cornrows; zigzags, overlapped, diagonal you name it. Cornrows are also called lines in Kenya (and I believe most of east/southern Africa) and Mistari (lines in Swahili) or Milazo in some parts of the country (milazo is loosely translated to laid down in Swahili; I think this refers to the act of plaiting hair in a laid down “flat” style as opposed to “standing” style like braids). They are also referred to as Canerows in the UK. Now I recently found out that they are also called Canerows in Jamaica which made a lot of sense for the UK name given the high number of black people of Jamaican descent in the UK. They probably carried the name over with them. You learn something new every day!
The hairstyle below has a variety of names it is popularly known as Ghana braids, Ghana cornrows, Ghana lines and known as Ghana weaving in Nigeria; by the way the art of cornrowing is commonly referred to as weaving in Nigeria and getting a sew in weave is referred to as fixing attachment (the attachment being the hair extension) or fixing a weave on, confusion much! These name variations are very common among African ladies both at home and abroad, the Ghanaians sure did a good job of branding this hairstyle!  But I would still like to know how it got this name, I wonder what the Ghanaians themselves call it, I forgot to ask so if you know please tell us the name in the comment section. Growing up we called this style Banana because of the way the plaited line curved like a Banana and it was always done without extensions this was one of my favourite hairstyles. Another name for this style that I have come across is Feeding Cornrows because you are adding/feeding more hair to the cornrow as you go along. In Kenya it also has a local term especially in the capital city called Medo meaning to add in Luo because you are always adding hair to the plaiting process. This style is called Pass Pass in Sierra Leone because you are passing hair over in the braiding process.
Ghana braids/lines/cornrows
Other forms of cornrows
The following categories were added to this post because it involved either plaiting a cornrow first before other additions are added or plaiting hair in a laid down flat style a la cornrows.
Tree braids probably called so because they resemble a tree with branches are known as drop lines or drop braids in Kenya because you are dropping a little bit of extension hair at a time as you go along with the cornrow plaiting process this technique is similar to that of Ghana cornrows with the only difference being the hair being dropped as it is added.  The style is called African Queen in Ghana. Another variation of tree braids is crotchet braids where the hair extension is pulled through individual cornrows using a crotchet needle/hook. You can get a combination of the two done by getting the entire head tree braided and then get crotchet braids done on the exposed cornrows to give it a full effect and also because the cornrows left out get old fast while the rest of the hair is still looking new  this balances it out and you can wear it for longer; let’s say you have tree braids in for three weeks and in the fourth week, crotchet braid the exposed cornrows which should be looking messy by now since your hair is growing and wear the style for a few more weeks. These two styles I like to call “cheat weaves” because the end result looks like a weave but no sewing takes place! It can be done with straight, wavy, or curly extension hair.

This next style is very common among little girls I air dry my hair this way sometimes as you can see in the photo. In Kenya it’s popularly known as Kamatana which is Swahili for hold one another. The individual braids are joined together and form a line by holding each other.

Air drying in Kamatana
What do you call this next style? I call it Rope braids/lines a name I carried over from my childhood we called it that because it looked like a rope! Depending on the direction of the braid or celebrity that inspired it there are a few other name variations too. Some other names for variations of this style are French braid, Dutch braid or whateverEuropeancountryyouchoose braid:) I simply call it Rope braids/lines and go ahead to explain the style with the aid of a photo and the direction I want it to take to the braider, even though I can cornrow I haven’t mastered this style yet and prefer to have someone else do it for me.  I usually do variations of this style when I am in between deciding what to do next with my hair and it lasts me 5 days to a week.

What I call rope braids/lines

That’s all folks hope you enjoyed the series!

Once again danke schön to Stella for the Ghanaian name that I remembered to ask for and to the lovely ladies who gave me permission to use their hairstyles for this post (ghana lines and cornrows).

What do you call any of these hairstyles where you are from or currently live?

UK: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


  1. I'd love to try rope braids sometime soon...looks like a cool protective style.....

    1. It is and perfect for when you are giving your hairline a break from braids.


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