Beautiful Portraits Celebrate First Nations Boys and Their Braids

Kanien’kehá:ka Boys with Braids

In many Indigenous cultures, men grow their hair and wear braids as a way to feel connected to their ancestors. But, unfortunately, this way of showing respect for their culture can sometimes make them the targets of bullying. In fact, for one First Nations mother in Quebec, the start of the school year was full of anticipation, but also some worry. Her 4-year-old son was starting nursery school and she was concerned that he might be laughed at for his long hair with braids. So, she asked photographer Angel Horn if she'd be interested in helping her raise awareness about the significance of these braids.

Horn immediately agreed and put out a call on her Facebook page for any First Nations boys willing to have their portrait taken. The effort was in support of the Back the Braid campaign, which was started in 2019 by two First Nations lacrosse players who were jeered for their braids. In one day, she'd received over 30 requests from boys of all ages growing their hair.

Many of the boys are Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) from Kahnawake, south of Montreal. For Horn, who has shot many awareness campaigns, she was overjoyed to see the pride these boys took in their hair. She hopes that, through the images, people from all cultures can become educated about the choice for many First Nations boys to grow their hair.

“For boys who wear braids or long hair, it’s so important to stop bullying and normalize that Onkwehòn:we boys grow their hair for lots of reasons—for strength, spirituality, strong cultural identity,” she tells My Modern Met. “It connects them to the land, to the earth. It connects them to the past, present, and future that they can wear their hair long for their ancestors who were unable to and were forced to cut their hair.”

Horn has been amazed by the public support for the project. She's hopeful that, through the photographs, people will take the time to understand the strength and resilience of these boys, as well as their pride in their culture.

Photographer Angel Horn offered free portraits to Kanien'kehá:ka boys who grow their hair.

Boys from Kahnawake with BraidsFirst Nations Mohawk Boys with BraidsKanien’kehá:ka Boys with BraidsBoys from Kahnawake with Braids

The beautiful images are part of the Back the Braid campaign to raise awareness about First Nations culture.

Kanien’kehá:ka Boys with Braids by Angel HornKanien’kehá:ka Boys with Braids by Angel HornBoys from Kahnawake with BraidsFirst Nations Mohawk Boys with Braids

The goal is for the public to learn more about why many Indigenous boys and men wear braids.

First Nations Mohawk Boys with BraidsKanien’kehá:ka Boys with Braids by Angel HornKanien’kehá:ka Father with His Son

And through this understanding, the hope is that these First Nations boys won't face bullying for showing pride in their culture.

First Nations Mohawk Boys with BraidsFirst Nations Mohawk Boys with BraidsKanien’kehá:ka Boys with Braids by Angel HornAngel Horn: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Angel Horn.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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