Zarma - Songhay culture:
Waffa braiding, part 2
Hair braiding starts with combing and washing of the hair.
After combing, Djamo washed the hair with a sticky liquid.
This liquid is made of water and leafs and roots of a plant
named ganda foy or sauce of the earth. Thereafter,
she removes this sticky liquid with a washing soda solution.
Djamo finishes the pre-treatment with a massage of the hair
with savon biyo (black soap). While the hair gets the
time to dry, the camera shows us how the women of the
village take care of the maintenance of the walls that due
to weathering and erosion need a fresh layer of mud. Back to
braiding, the Comal (Tchomal) is considered as the
architectural pillar of the Waffa hair style. The Comal is
made of piece of cloth and is folded in the presence of the
customer. The Comal is placed in the middle on the head.
Sometimes the hairdresser places amulets under the Comal,
which contain Koran verses. Djamo uses butter of cows to
make the hairs supple and charcoal powder to prevent
slipping of the fingers during braiding. Of course, Djamo
complains the the youngsters do braid their hair, but they
do not know how to really braid the Waffa hair style.
This video is the second part of a film by Ibrahim Labo Kalla titled "La
tresse Waffa" and which was made in 2006 by order of
the ´Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision du Niger´. The two
other parts can be viewed as well. The film has been
released as part of the series 'Alter metier' and is
shot in Niger. The length of the original film is 25 minutes
and the film has been broadcasted in October 2006 by RTBF 3.
Comments and subtitles are in French. However, the people in
the movie speak Songhay-Kaado
en Zarma. This second part takes eight and a half minute.
braiding (part 1 to
Turuyaŋ, part 1
Turuyaŋ, part 2
Turuyaŋ, part 3
About the film
This film shows in its own
peculiar way that hairdressing is not only meant to make
someone beautiful, or at least immaculately dressed, but
also that hairdressing is an integral part of the culture
of a people . We see picture of the market and
the river, both an essential part of the Zarma/Songhay
civilisation. At the same time, we learn that de Zarma/
Songhay-Kaado language is spoken by several distinguishable
ethnic groups. We get to see the role of the women in the
maintenance of the house. The mud walls weather and erode by
the extreme weather in the Sahelian zone, and the people
have to regularly skim or daub the wall with a fresh layer
of mud. But, above all, we obtain insight into the art and
rituals of hair braiding, the Waffa braiding to be precise. .
is an ethnic group, that settle in the area between
(Niger) around 1800. They often live on the isles in
the Niger river [2,
p.388]. They speak
just like the other ethnic groups that live in this
This Songhay-dialect is almost similar to Zarma and
also they culture of the Wogo is very alike to that
of the Zarma
 Regina Paul. About Hair Braiding.
 Jean-Paul Olivier de Sardan (1978)
Marriage among the Wogo. In: David Seddon (ed.),
Relations of production. Marxist approaches to economic
anthropology. Frank Cass and Company Limited, Oxon,