Some battles are truly unforgettable. In biblical times there was David and Goliath. In the 1800s, there was the Union and the Confederacy. In film, there was Batman and Bane. For the African American woman, the greatest battle of them all is the battle between “good hair” and “bad hair.”
Good hair is understood to be hair that is straighter, longer, flowing, and more manageable. Bad hair is traditionally considered to be coarser, shorter, and kinkier. It is at a young age that African American girls are exposed to the battle between the two. I can still recall when I was in the second grade and sang what I thought at the time was an innocent childhood rhyme.
“Bald headed hood rat, your hair can’t touch your back. Perm it. Weave it. You know you need it. I’m so happy. My hair ain’t nappy. It used to be nappy. I was so unhappy.”
I’m sure many would agree that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. For many Nigerian women, it is the head wrap, not the hair, that is an integral part of her identity and presence. Since the early 1700s the head wrap has been a sign of prosperity and spirituality. Commonly referred to as “gele” in Yoruba or “ichafu” in Ibo, West African women have donned these elaborate and colorful headpieces at events, parties, and other significant gatherings. The rich history of the ornate headdress has been preserved throughout the years but has also transformed and been incorporated into the natural hair culture. All women, regardless of status or spiritual background can access the head wrap now. Although it is still most common amongst African women, many natural women have found ways to incorporate the piece into their daily hairstyles. Accessorizing with similar colorful fabrics has become common for many natural women and is used to spruce up a style and add an additional touch of elegance. Whether it is worn traditionally or used to enhance a natural hairstyle, I think that it is a true embrace of African culture and origin. That’s all I have to say so I guess that’s a wrap!
My Spin on the African Head Wrap Photo taken by C. Hall