The head tie is an integral part of women’s fashion throughout Africa and they range from a simple monotone item through to an elaborate head dress comprising extravagant prints and luxurious materials.
The head tie comes with a variety of names, depending on the region. In South Africa and Namibia, the ‘doek’, which means cloth, is the head tie of choice. In Malawi and Ghana, they call it the ‘duku’, Nigerians know it as the ‘gele’ and Botswana knows it as the ‘tukwi’. It is also known as the Sego Ipele.
The head scarf can be functional (to cover the head and keep the beating sun at bay), a fashion accessory, or even a ceremonial and ornamental piece. It also has religious significance.
Practical & Beautiful African Head Wear…
Nigeria has embraced the gele and although they are worn on a daily basis by some women, many pride themselves on their elaborate ceremonial geles that are made of heavier material than normal cloth. The gele is an opportunity to show opulence, wealth and style, and when worn correctly, it covers the hair and the upper part of the ears. Many women choose to co-ordinate the gele with their outfit and make everything from the same fabric, while others go for a contrasting look.
In Malawi, the ethos is very different and the head tie tends to be a more conservative style and the direction it is worn is important. At funerals, they tend to be worn in a downward pattern, while at a celebration like a wedding they are tied upward and presented in a more flamboyant way. They are commonly worn to sleep in, too, in Malawi, as a way of protecting the woman’s hair.
Many South African women wear a white duku to church and this symbol of purity is a long way off the most glamorous floral and jacquard prints that Nigerian high society tends to go for.
There are so many different options that the humble but beautiful head tie has become an art form in its own right and a source of pride for women with a vast collection of different options for every single occasion.