Gele Holds Importance in African Culture

Model wears a gele, a Nigerian head scarf.

Tobbytex007 (Wikimedia Commons)

Model wears a gele, a Nigerian head scarf.

Lisa Norris, Reporter

The African headdress, also known as the “Gele,” is an important hair accessory in African culture.

I have always been interested in African culture since being taught about the different styles, dances, and music that I heard playing growing up. It made me curious about my ancestors, and I had a lot of questions about how it related to me at the time. I’m African American, so I do have a lot of questions regarding my African culture.

I always loved a few of my mom’s headwraps she would wear when she didn’t feel like doing her hair. Not all of them, but the majority were cute. My favorite was a leopard print design, it made her face more noticeable, and her skin always looked like it lightened up under it.

So, why am I interested in Gele? Gele is mainly used in West Africa, if I’m specific, Nigeria. These wraps are essential for special occasions like weddings, ceremonies, and festivals. Gele is made from Aso-oke fabric. Aso-oke is tightly hand-woven to give it texture. Geles are also made with cotton, silk, and metallic fibers, making the cloth look shiny and feel silky. The old Gele fabric could also be used for wrapping paper.

From what I learned from research, in the past, if a person had or owned Aso-oke, it was a sign of wealth for both men and women. It was an expensive fabric at the time, and kings loved it.

The round shape that it creates after being tied is beautiful in my eyes. I always thought it was like any other headband, and all you had to do was slip it on over your head, and voila! But sadly, it needs to be tied, and the process looks way more complicated than I thought. When it comes to colors and patterns, most Gele designers will agree that the Gele should match the outfit, or at least go with the event setting.

But my thoughts overall are that design and fabric looks and feels amazing; I also want to buy my own to wear just because the designs are cute.