Dating back centuries, Bantu knots are twists of individual hair or braids that are wrapped around to form a tight knot. Styled by sectioning the hair into small partings all over the head, Bantu knots can be worn as a protective style as is, or used to achieve heatless curls and waves. Variations of techniques, as well as regional differences, means the knots are also sometimes referred to as Zulu knots or Nubian knots. The style gained mainstream popularity in the West thanks to names like Mel B, Rihanna and Jada Pinkett Smith in the Matrix – as well as through problematic cases of cultural appropriation by white women and runway designers co opting the look.
The word Bantu itself is a broad term used to describe the hundreds of ethnic groups across Africa that speak the Bantu language; while the language varies, Bantu is more or less consistently used to mean ‘people’. With this deep-rooted meaning and a history that is often lost (or wilfully ignored), it’s a culturally significant hairstyle that is loaded with meaning and heritage.