The hair is the richest ornament of women (Martin Luther, n.d.). Many women of African ancestry view their hair as emotionally charged, symbolic, and inseparably linked to who they are (Asenso, 2019). Dansinkran is a hairstyle worn by queen mothers and women in the royal family in the Ashanti and some other Akan tribes in Ghana. The original name of the hairstyle is Kentenkye.
There are several stories about how the style originated. The most prevalent one being that Nana Kwaadu Yiadom II, the queen mother of the Asante Kingdom and sister of Nana Prempeh I, performed the regal Adowa dance during the Asante Confederacy's restoration in 1935 while sporting her Kentenkye hairstyle. The reigning Governor referred to her Kentenkye hairstyle as a "dancing crown" because of its aesthetic appeal during the dance. The term "dancing crown" was verbally altered to become Dansinkran, which has since become the name of the hairdo in use today (Essel, 2020).
At Katamanso, the British joined forces with the Ga-Adangbe, Fanti, Denkyira, Akwamu, and Akyems to defeat the Asantes. The hairstyle was introduced to mourn the Asantehene. The hairstyle's name, "Gyese Nkran", means "except Accra", which was linguistically changed by the local folks as Dansinkran (Biggs and Reporter, 2020). Though other women wear Dansinkran, the queen mother's Dansinkran is distinct and stands out because they work on their hair daily, whereas other women wear it on special occasions.
The crown of the head's edges is cut almost to the skin, and the remaining hair is styled to define the wearer's head in an oval form. The haircut gives the head a calabash shape (Essel, 2020). A mixture of charcoal, soot from a cooking pot or fire lamp, and shea butter are applied to give the hair a vivid blackened appearance (Asenso, 2019). It is believed that the dye used on the hair enhances the thinking capabilities of the wearer (GMB-TV3, 2022). The eyelashes are also made darker to match the colour of the hair. Given that the hair receives little to no ornate decoration, the haircut aids in drawing attention to the wearer's facial features.
The Dansinkran hairstyle is paired with two pieces of cloth. One cloth is wrapped and secured around the torso. The other piece is draped over one shoulder (Asenso, 2019). Typically, during the dance, also referred to as Durbars, queen mothers with this haircut are not permitted to wear earrings (Essel, 2020).
Its Role And Uses
The Dansinkran hairstyle functions as a political, religious, and sociocultural marker. It distinguishes the queen mothers and women from the royal family from other people. It identifies a woman as an elder in the community. The hairstyle also symbolises power and wealth (Essel, 2020).
The yardage of cloth wrapped and draped around the body to pair with the hairstyle required 12 - 6 yards for each piece.
The style is adorned to pay homage to dead kings and queens. In the event of death, royal women not adorned in Dansinkran were not allowed to file past the dead bodies of kings or queens. Dansinkran is worn on several occasions, such as weddings, durbars, festivals, and funerals.
In Contemporary Fashion
The Dansinkran hairstyle has stood the test of time and remained the same over the years. However, the youth has embraced it. Modern traditional brides dress in the Dansinkran to meet their husbands and in-laws. Even though they do not shave their hair like the original style, they wear a head cover that mimics the Dansinkran haircut.
Another contemporary name for the Dansinkran hairstyle is “Sweat”. The difference is this is a unisex hairstyle worn by the youth and the absence of the shiny dark mixture applied to the hair (Essel, 2020).
By Louisa Pokua Owusu-Afriyie, Africa's Young Fashion Leaders Fellow (Project Management) at the Council for International African Fashion Education
Asenso, K. (2019). Dansinkran Hairstyle Fashion and Its Socio-Cultural Significance in Akan Traditional Ruling. Journal of Culture, Society and Development, 49(2422-8400). doi:10.7176/jcsd/49-05.
Biggs, E.K. and Reporter (2020). Today In History: Exactly 194 Years Ago Today, The People Of Accra Defeated The Mighty Asante Army In The Battle Of Katamanso. [online] GhanaCelebrities.com. Available at: https://www.ghanacelebrities.com/2020/08/07/today-in-history-exactly-194-years-ago-today-the-people-of-accra-defeated-the-mighty-asante-army-in-the-battle-of-katamanso/ [Accessed 29 Nov. 2022].
Essel, O.Q. (2020). Dansinkran Hairstyle. [online] www.explore-vc.org. Available at: https://www.explore-vc.org/en/objects/dansinkran-hairstyle.html [Accessed 29 Nov. 2022].
TV3, G. (2022). GMB2022[WEEK1]: Tiwaa educates us on the origin of Densinkran & its uniqueness in Ahafo region. [online] www.youtube.com. Available at: https://youtu.be/CPF_rhsP2fQ [Accessed 29 Nov. 2022].
Image Credit: www.explore-vc.org