Griebel, H.B. 1995. “The West African Origin of the African-American Headwrap.”

Griebel, Helen Bradley. 1995. “The West African Origin of the African-American Headwrap.” Pp. 207-226 in Dress and Ethnicity: Change Across Space and Time, edited by Joanne B. Eicher. Washington D.C.: Berg.

“The headwrap is a piece of cloth wound around the head, usually completely covering the hair and held in place either by tucking the ends of the fabric into the wrap or by tying the ends into a knot close to the skull” (207) — kx^ author claims that “The headwrap is an article of dress almost exclusive to women of African descent” (207), but is it?  Where else do such headcovers exist – aside from contemporary appropriations? – Later, mentions possible Arabic influence, Spanish Moor origins – however, these headwrappings were almost exclusively male… so what prompts African women’s use?

Used as a signifier of West African heritage, identity – assertion of boundaries, authenticity of wearer. Scholars may avoid attributing meanings of “survival, revival, retention, acculturation, and loss” (211) to the material, instead looking to its historical transport, use, and lineage.

“[…] although specific forms of material objects change, more deeply ingrained, culturally learned attitudes about manipulating oneself in the world are less susceptible to modification” (216) – kx^ – so material goods change in response to sociocultural shifts, but people’s behaviors/customs are more static?  Then, who is making/consuming/driving the material good’s development?

Revitalization of West African dress, headwraps, hair-dos in 1970s through 1990s as a means to assert Black/African-American/Africanist belonging/community/descent/ideology/familiarity with history and ties to contemporary racial struggles – however, did not continue in popularity long after – why?


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