Any one who knows me well knows I’m extremely prone to wrapping my hair. What many Caribbean women consider protective head attire for sleep, is fair game for all occasions to me. African head wraps are not only colourful, practical, elegant and regal, but when coupled with great makeup, a wrap can save you in last minute pinches. Woke up 30 mins late for work? No problem, HEAD WRAP! Unexpected guests while you were conditioning your hair? SHAZAM… HEAD WRAP! I. Love. African. Head. Wraps. So much so that when my makeup teacher asked us to bring in a accessory for our cultural bride assignment. Guess what I chose for my model Krystal?
The African head wrap has become a makeup muse. My MUA certification is a week away and I’ve decided to celebrate it with a #100faces campaign. But before all of that, I’m paying homage to my accessory obsession and schoolin’ you [and myself] on the cultural significance. The African head rap has become a symbol of the exotic allure of Africa and a cultural fashion statement around the world. It’s beautiful, versatile, and each head wrap offers the means to express heritage and the love of African culture. However, there is much more to the head wrap than the fabulous patterns and fashion; it originates from a rich cultural history.
The Origin of the Head wrap:
The head wrap originated in sub-Saharan Africa, and was often used to convey modesty, spirituality and prosperity. Even men in Africa wear head wraps to symbolise wealth and social status. Head wrapping is literally the way that African’s for centuries have been able to non-verbally communicate their place in life. The head wrap of a woman walking down the street will tell you if she’s a widow, a grandmother, or if she’s a married young woman. It’s an element in the daily living of an African woman. Head wraps also serve a practical function in protecting the head from the rays of the sun. In West Africa, head wraps are referred to as ‘gele’ in Yoruba or ‘ichafu’ in Ibo.
Head wraps In U.S. History
During slavery, white overlords imposed the wear of head wraps as a badge of enslavement. Later it evolved into the stereotype that whites held of the “Black Mammy” servant. The enslaved and their descendants, however, bravely regarded the head wrap as a helmet of courage that evoked an image of their true homeland – that ancient Africa – or the newer homeland; America. The simple head rag worn by millions of enslaved women and their descendants has served as a uniform of communal identity; but at its most elaborate, the African American woman’s head wrap has functioned as a “uniform of rebellion” signifying absolute resistance to loss of self-definition.’
For me, the African head wrap is an expression of my creativity, an African survival, and part of a cultural inheritance, oppressors never intended.
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