Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Locs and Headwraps - part 1 - the history

Part I

I never really thought that much about wearing a headwrap until I began planning my trip to Africa last year. The first day I was in Senegal I was in awe and I marveled at the women with their colorful stylish clothing and their exquisite headwraps. I don’t know what I expected but well, I was hooked. 

There was some kind of big event going on in our hotel and I wanted to take pictures of some of the women but not wanting to seem like an American tourist, I resisted the urge and watched from my seat in the lobby. Now I wish I had been brave enough to go up and ask them for pictures. Since then I’ve been trying to figure out just how to incorporate headwraps into my wardrobe and how to tie them and make them look good with all this hair (headwraps usually cover all the hair). Anyway, I’m determined to find the right style for me and become a pro at tying them.

So, to start, I set out to research the history. This is what I found.

my 1st attempt at a headwrap. Guinea Bissau Africa
The headwrap originated in sub-Saharan Africa and has symbolic spiritual meanings and denotes wealth, prosperity and class. And although it originated in Africa headwraps have been worn by men and women of all different cultures.

“How” the headwrap is worn is the key.

The headwrap survived slavery
in 1786, while Louisiana was a Spanish colony, the governor enacted a dress code which forbade: "females of color ... to wear plumes or jewelry"; this law specifically required "their hair bound in a kerchief"
The preceding codes and comments show that whites expected the headwrap to mark the black women's social status as different from that of women in the white community. In addition, headwraps functioned as status symbols within the African American communities Louis Hughes, born 1843, enslaved in Mississippi and Virginia, noted: "The cotton clothes worn by both men and women (house servants), and the turbans of the latter, were snowy white" (1897) 1969:43). After the family moved to the city, Hughes recalled, "Each of the women servants wore a new gay colored turban, which was tied differently from that of the ordinary servant, in some fancy knot
The headwrap functioned as status symbols,  served to absorb perspiration much as a bandana and also was used to cover the hair when it did not look "presentable"
Women of African ancestry use a method of folding the fabric into a rectilinear shape while European/white women fold fabric into a triangle.  Another significant difference is that cloth is tied and the knot is under her chin, whereas African American woman will usually ties the knots somewhere on the crown of her head, either at the top or on the sides, often tucking the ends into the wrap.
The African American woman's headwrap exhibits the features of the sub-Saharan African woman.  Although the African American woman sometimes ties the fabric at the nape of the neck, her form of styling always leaves her forehead and neck exposed; and, by leaving her face open, the headwrap visually enhances the facial features. Hence, the African American headwrap works as a regal
In effect, African and African American women wear the headwrap as a queen might wear a crown.
 Come back for part II

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