The beauty of Netflix’s Blood and Water South African hairstyles

Netflix’s ‘Blood and Water’ season three premiered on 25 November following a new trail of unanswered questions and cliffhangers.

Whilst this season of the South African teen drama is full of even more unexpected Nollywood-level plot twists (but filmed and produced with the right funding to make it telenovela-worthy), one part of production continues to stand out in the hit programme.

The hair and beauty of ‘Blood and Water’ is a wonderful emblem of South African culture, nicely backed-up by the natural dialogue switches between English, Zulu, Afrikaans and Swahili between the characters at Parkhurst High and their families.

One misunderstood character particularly appeals to a regal beauty of hairstyles – season one’s head girl and school magazine editor, Wendy Dlamini.

From seasons one to three, Wendy’s hairstyles go from reserved in a tied up crown at school, to more expressive and proud as her character comes out of her uptight shell and connects with the other students.

The show’s make-up artist, Evelyn Gambe, has also worked on Queen of Katwe with Lupita Nyong’o. Gambe has said that she created styles on the Netflix show based on the contrasting social classes at the school to highlight those who could afford to look good and those who could not.

Wendy’s character comes from a wealthy, high-status family akin to Fikile Bhele – the show’s co-protagonist and missing sister to Puleng Khumalo. This expectedly means that Wendy and Fiks can be seen in more frequently changing hairstyles and more expensive ones too.

However, where Fiks sports weaves more often, Wendy has a natural hair approach.

Gambe previously told Times Live SA: “[Wendy’s] the kind of character who doesn’t take any nonsense. So for her look I tried to keep her as natural as possible bringing our natural SA hairstyles [into play].

“She does not wear weaves and as the show goes you will see the same thing applies to her mother because they are a family that wants to keep an African look. Even the braids she has are wool braids done with Brazilian wool. I wanted to capture the mood of the show and the background of each family.”

Meanwhile, the show’s protagonist Puleng is usually seen in the widely-worn protective style of black and brown braids.

Gambe saion Puleng’s character: “I gave her braids which she kept for a long time. She has that look because she wants to look like her friends, but she also wants to look like (her long-lost sister) Fikile.”

Between all the highs and crushing lows that Puleng’s family faces, her mother’s hairstyle begins to change to align with the story.

As Thankdeka (Puleng’s mother) losing her child is the premise of the show, she has no time to think about her hairstyle and rather focus on her family and keeping them together. Gambe chose to put her in dreadlocks initially to show that she has no time for the salon, which is accompanied by Thandeka rolling her hair up every time she is deep in thought.

In the latter seasons, Thandeka begins sporting her natural afro, continuing her character’s story who has less time and money to spend on beauty. Puleng is also one of the minority students at Parkhurst who is there via scholarship. Gambe thereby does a good job depicting the varying classes at the school through their beauty from the daughters and sons in mansions with big parties and more freedom, to their friends running [drug] side hustles to get by and the newcomers trying to fit in.

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