If you’ve ever found yourself wondering about the beauty standards of some groups, you should perhaps also spare a thought for the Mwila tribes. This Mwila tribe lives in a sparsely populated Huila province in southern Angola, where they live a traditional lifestyle.
The Mwila people are known for their elaborate dresses, jewelry, and especially their hairstyles. The adult women are expected to style their hair using a mixture of oil, crushed tree bark, butter, dried cow dung, and herbs to shape it into thick dreadlocks that are then dyed using oncula, a type of crushed rock.
The hair also acts as important symbols, telling viewers about the women and their lives. The number of braids in their hair – usually between four and six – denotes whether they have reached maturity, but three braids indicate there has been a death in their family.
Adult women also wear large necklaces, which at first appear to be made of strings of beads. Still, they are large collars of mud with beads embedded in them, women of this tribe are best-known for these elaborate beads they wear around their necks, symbolizing stages of their life. Necklaces are also used to demonstrate sexual maturity in the tribe, with young women wearing smaller necklaces, usually of red or yellow. As they grow older, more colored bands of beads are added, indicating different stages of life. Because the necklaces and hairstyles take so long to create, women wear them all the time – including while sleeping.
Special head-rests are often used to stop the hair from being damaged. While the fashions of the Mwila are meant to be striking, they also serve important symbolic purposes, indicating the difference between girls and women.