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The History of Bantu Knots and How to Achieve Them

It can be easy to get stuck in a rut doing the same style over and over. Why not switch it up with a fun new style, all while using products that hydrate and strengthen your hair at the same time?At NaturAll, we believe that you should be able to achieve fabulous styles, without sacrificing the health of your hair.

Ready to try out a new style for the upcoming festivities? Bantu Knots might be the perfect choice to stand out and impress. Read on for the history of Bantu Knots and how to achieve them. Get ready to condition, nourish, and style your hair in a new refreshing hairstyle!

What are Bantu Knots?

Bantu knots are wildly popular throughout the world for being fashionable, fun, and highly customizable. They're loved by everyone, from the runways of the most expensive fashion houses, to the ancient tribes of Northern Africa, to Jada Pinkett Smith’s character in “The Matrix”. Predominantly known within the black community as a protective hairstyle or an easy way to stretch your hair without using heat, the history of Bantu Knots place them as a long-standing tradition in Black and African culture rather than just a fun hairstyle (although it is both!)

The word "Bantu" is a term used to describe the 300 to 600 ethnic groups within southern Africa that spoke the Bantu language. These ethnic groups all differ culturally as individual groups, with over 100 million people speaking variations of the Bantu language in southern and central Africa.

lupita bantu knots

The history of Bantu knots

Exactly how these languages made their way into southern Africa remains unclear and is debated. However, it is documented that those groups of Bantu speakers have achieved many incredible cultural developments and have built beautiful fortresses that still stand today, such as the Zimbabwe Ruins, the remains bustling city located in Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo

When European colonists first began documenting the “Bantu-speakers” in the 16th century, they would use the term to mean "native" or “Indigenous people” for official government use in South Africa. The name was unfortunately used very heavily during the Apartheid of South African, and became a term that many grew to despise as it was utilized to oppress rather than simply describe. Once Apartheid was dissolved, Bantu was replaced by Black as descriptor, and Bantu returned to its original meaning in reference to the spoken language and its people.

Bantu Knots and Cultural Appropriation

Today the hairstyle has been reinvented in several ways, and still remains a staple for Black women around the world, especially those wearing their hair in natural styles. They are worn by African women of certain cultural groups with a sense of pride and are a strong representation of women in the community wearing a natural hairstyle passed down from generation to generation. Although many African-Americans do not know where their roots lie in Africa, it's an amazing feat that we have been able to keep this tradition and style alive in our communities and families today.

Of course, as happens with Black culture too often in the fashion industry, the hairstyle has been used on runways of almost exclusively white models, on non-Black celebrities, has been renamed "twisted mini buns," and magazines have even given credit to these non-Black people as inventors of the style or listed it as a 'new' trend (Side eyes Kardashian and Jenner clan.) In fact, there are many people today who still see Bjork as the person who brought Bantu Knots back in the 90s.

The issue with this lack of credit to the Black community is simple. Ebony magazine refers to it 'Columbusing' in reference to magazines giving credit to the wrong people. This essentially means that white culture attempts to take credit for discovering something that already existed, thereby removing said thing from its roots and its cultural significance to the community that actually discovered it.

Cultural appropriation is particularly threatening with regard to Black hair because Black women have had to fight for equal representation in many industries and for our beauty to be valued by society. Often times when Black women have worn traditionally Black hairstyles it is written off as 'unprofessional' or 'ghetto,' but when white women do it, suddenly it's fashionable or a 'new' trend.

Bantu Knot Styling Options

With all of this in mind, Bantu knots remain a fun and versatile style that can feature intricate designs, artful accessories, and dynamic colors, but we promise they aren't difficult to do. Bantu knots are a fantastic style option for any hair length and curl pattern! The shorter your hair is, the smaller your bantu knots will be and the more knots you'll need to cover your entire head.

You can easily change up this style by positioning the knots in different formations. You can have one row at the front of the head, similar to a headband style, you can go Spice Girl and place two at the front with the rest of your hair out, and you can even do jumbo bantu knots by using added braiding hair to make a more dramatic statement!

beautiful bantu knots

How to prep your hair for Bantu Knots (and the products you'll need)

Always start a new style with a cleansed and conditioned scalp. We recommend NaturAll's Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner to clarify your hair and scalp so you can get the best results! They’re sulfate free, and feature a delicious scent you’ll love throughout the styling process. If your hair gets easily dry, you may want to follow up with an Ice Cream Treatment Deep Conditioner from NaturAll for easy detangling and to restore and strengthen your hair before this high manipulation style.

Next up is setting the foundation to a good style. Making sure your hair is well moisturized can have a dramatic effect on your end results. Juicy curls and well sealed ends can really make your style pop! NaturAll’s Hydrating Leave-In Conditioner is the perfect answer to your hair needs. This lightweight formula goes on easily, and quickly absorbs into the hair for lasting hydration. Finish with the Hydrating Oil Blend to seal in the goodness and your hair will be all set for its new look!

Now it's time to install the Bantu Knots!

Now that your hair is well nourished and clean, you have the perfect foundation for your bantu knots. You can begin your style on damp hair or try your bantu knots on stretched dry hair. Your next series of products will depend heavily on your specific curl pattern and what your hair likes. NaturAll has got you covered with a range of unique products specifically formulated to suit your hair type!

The Hydrating Twisting Paste will work great for thick and kinkier textures. For our 4C friends, this one’s for you! It has a thick consistency to hold even the most stubborn strands for sleek styles with no flake. Just rub the product between your hands to soften, apply to each section of hair as you work, and brush the product through for extra smoothness. 

NaturAll's Hydrating Moisturizer is the perfect lightweight styling product for thinner hair, and hair types 2 and 3 that might get weighed down by heavier products. Apply to your damp hair and you’ll get an extra boost of nourishment with a medium hold that will work perfectly for your styling process.

Now that we’ve layered on all of our products, it’s time to get to work! Begin by sectioning your hair into four square sections and secure them with clips (NaturAll’s Alligator Clips work well for this).

The sections don’t need to be perfect! From here you can decide how many knots you want to make, how you’d like to part your hair, and you easily make sure that the sections are even to make sure your knots all end up the same size. You can freestyle the parts as you go, or make it easier on yourself by parting each section and securing the hair with a small rubber band. 

Note: Coat your rubber bands in NaturAll's Hydrating Oil Blend to make sure they glide over your hair smoothly without pulling or tugging.

How to form a great Bantu Knot

Now it’s finally time to start forming the knots. There are several methods to creating a great knot, but the easiest is to two-strand twist the hair in the section, and then wind that twist into a knot. Be sure to tuck the end of the twist at the bottom of the knot or use a small bobby pin or rubber band to hold everything in place. 

Forming the knots this way can help to keep the hair from getting tangled, and allows you to easily get the shape you want. When you are twisting your hair, remember that the tighter the twist is, the better the result will be. Follow this process until your sections are complete, and you’re all done!

Before you hit the town to show off your new style, we recommend applying NaturAll's Strengthening Growth Serum throughout your scalp to moisturize and protect your hair from the root. Adding the oil can help reduce flaking, alleviate tension in your roots, and stimulate healthy blood circulation in your scalp. Try to resist the urge to re-twist your knots, since over-manipulating your hair with daily twisting may cause excess breakage. Your knots may begin to look more loose or puffy, but sleeping with a silk scarf or bonnet can help to keep them looking neat.

Make your Bantu Knots stand out from the crowd

how to achieve bantu knots

For added style points you can get creative to add even more fun and fashionable flair to your style. For a retro pop of color, try using colorful rubber bands to secure your sections and knots. The hints of color throughout your head will be a welcome addition that’s subtle but still makes your style stand out.

You can also add colored braiding hair to your twists to pump up the color output. Eye popping reds, blues, and even ombre braiding hair will definitely add some drama. Looking for a more bohemian vibe? Wrap your knots with small pieces of gold or silver colored string to add a little Scary Spice magic to your knots. You can even add matching braid accessories like clips. beads, and shells for a look that’s totally you! Don’t be afraid to spice up your knots however you please. There are so many cool ways to make your style exactly what you’d like.

After you’ve rocked your bantu knots for a while, you can unravel them to reveal a gorgeously defined coily texture. If you used bobby pins to hold down your knots, gently and slowly remove them from your hair. If you used rubber bands, try to isolate the band from your hair, then make a tiny snip at the band with your scissors. They should be easily removed without damage to your hair!

When unraveling your knots, make sure you proceed with caution and work from tip to root in order to avoid tangling and frizz. We recommend refreshing your hair with a small amount of NaturAll's Hydrating Leave-In Conditioner and Hydrating Oil Blend for an extra juicy bantu knot-out that lasts. 

Two styles in one? You just can’t beat that!

Jasmine Goodwin

Jasmine Goodwin

At NaturAll, we create and elevate clean haircare and beauty standards, providing freshly-made products that are better for you and your hair. Sourced from small farmers in Jamaica and Ghana. We source ingredients directly from small farmers in Jamaica and Ghana, so we always know how our ingredients are sourced and exactly who is being supported by our business. We are proud to support Black farmers and small businesses around the world. We believe that what goes on your body is as important as what goes in it. Too many hair products are made with synthetic ingredients that are irritating, damaging, or even hazardous, and the problem is worse in hair products marketed to Black women.


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