Kenya: See Coronavirus Hairstyle That Got Many Talking

Kenya – Coronavirus has revived a hairstyle in east Africa has got many talking, one with braided spikes that echo the virus’s distinctive shape.

Braided spikes that echo virus’s shape make comeback while carrying a vital message

Martha Apisa (left) and Stacy Ayuma. Photograph: Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images 

The style’s growing popularity is in part due to economic hardships linked to virus restrictions – it is cheap, parents say – and to the goal of spreading awareness about the coronavirus.

The hairstyle had gone out of fashion in recent years as imported real and synthetic hair from India, China and Brazil began to flood the market and demand by local women increased. Pictures of the flowing or braided imported styles are tacked up in beauty salons across much of Africa.

But now, in a makeshift salon beside a busy road in Kibera, a slum in the heart of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, Sharon Refa, a 24-year-old hairdresser, braids young girls’ hair into the antennae-like spikes that people call the “coronavirus hairstyle”. Girls shift in the plastic chairs as she tugs at their scalps.

“Some grownups don’t believe that the coronavirus is real, but most young children are keen to sanitize their hands and wear masks. Many adults do not do this, and that is why we came up with the corona hairstyle,” Refa says, her face mask tucked under her chin.


 Children have their hair braided at the Mama Brayo beauty salon in Kibera, Nairobi. Photograph: Brian Inganga/AP

Kenya’s number of confirmed virus cases  was nearing 700 as of Monday. With the widespread shortage of testing materials, however, the real number of cases could be higher. Health officials are especially worried about the possible spread of the virus in crowded slums.

Margaret Andeya, who is struggling to make ends meet, said the coronavirus hairstyle suited her daughters’ styling needs and her pocket. Virus-related restrictions have stifled daily work for millions of people with little or no savings.

“This hairstyle is much more affordable for people like me who cannot afford to pay for the more expensive hairstyles out there yet still want our kids to look stylish,” Andeya says.


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