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What’s Up With the African Headwrap?

African Headwrap

Headwraps have been worn by both men and women on the continent since the days of ancient Egypt and Nubia.

Historians have linked the wearing of headwraps as members of royalty in Pharaonic times, where hieroglyphic evidence shows Pharaohs wearing headbands or covering their heads with wigs made from specific material to signify a specific meaning. In other parts of upper Africa, material that was used to make head coverings included beads, feathers, and shavings from the baobab tree.

African Headwrap

Since then, headwraps have been widely used by women, mostly elderly and married, as a headwraps represented one’s social status as well as marital status. It has also been used for spiritual worship, elaborate ceremonial occasions and, recently, mainly by younger women, as a fashion accessory and as a symbol of African pride and renaissance. Younger women do, however, wear a headwrap for cultural purposes if and when necessary.

Headwraps are known by different names in different regions on the continent. In south africa and namibia, a head wrap is known as a doek, dhuku in zimbabwe, tuku or tukwi in botswana, duku in malawi and ghana, gele in nigeria, and chitambala in zambia.

African Headwrap

Headwraps are usually worn up on the head as if symbolizing a crown, either completely covering the hair or tied as a headband around the forehead to reveal a crown of hair. There are a number of ways that one can tie a headwrap, making it versatile enough to fit the style and fit one is going for.

For some great ideas on different ways to tie a headwrap to create an array of styles, see the tutorial below.

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South African journalist based in Johannesburg. A Wits University graduate, Lebo enjoys writing lifestyle and entertainment stories.

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