Yay, it's Clap for That Wrap Wednesday! As I continue to do this series on Wednesdays, I hope to highlight more wrap wearers and to explore their cultural and fashionable wrap styles. I will be interviewing women from all different countries and cultures, and today I'm starting with Mary of Verily Merrily Mary, a Nigerian-Canadian-American Third Culture Kid that really rocks her wraps! (And all the pictures are from her IG feed!)
Which countries have you lived in, and which country (or countries) does your family tree hail from?
I have lived in Nigeria, Canada, and the United States but my family’s roots are in Nigeria.
How often do you wear head wraps?
It depends on the hairstyle. When I am wearing my afro out or a short braided style, I wear them more often (2 times or more per week). I think I do this because it sits on my head more easily. But my hair is currently in long, thick twists so I haven’t worn a head wrap in months.
What significance do head wraps have to you? Do you wear them for utilitarian reasons and/or cultural reasons?
Oh, it’s both utilitarian and cultural for me. When you spend so much of your childhood ashamed of your African identity due to being picked on about it, it empowering to sport your African fabrics as an adult who is extremely proud of her heritage. I am more drawn to neutral tones in clothing but a vibrant headscarf can be a wonderful icing on the cake on a more “quiet” outfit. Headscarves and head wraps are also cleverly beautiful ways to hide my bath hair days.
What makes a head wrap particularly Nigerian/African/West African?
(ex: Is it the print, the wrapping style itself, fabric, a matching outfit, etc.?)
The fabric used and the way it is worn can play into whether or not a head wrap style is authentically African. Sub-saharan African print is quite distinct to me. There are some widely known prints like Kente cloth from Ghana and Ankara from Nigeria. Both are known for their vibrancy in color. The Kente cloth alternates between two types of fabric per row, often using yellow and other bright colors and patterns. Ankara is a bit harder to explain because there are nearly countless variations of the print. But the feel of them are the same: colorful yet not overbearing.
There is one head wrap common in Nigeria called a Gele. It is worn by women only during special occasions like weddings and other major celebrations and ceremonies. The fabric used for the Gele is usually ornate and quite firm, allowing the wearer to pin and manipulate the fabric to her liking. It is so gorgeous and it kind of reminds me of a rose.
Are there any ways that non-Africans/Nigerians/West Africans can take inspiration from your culture’s head wrap styles without stealing them?
One thing Westerners and Western culture can do is stop acting like they found a novel fashion piece whenever they are rocking African items, head wrap or otherwise. It happens so often and is so offensive. Arbitrary “tribal print” headscarves and clothing sold in stores like Forever 21 sometimes have them with patterns that are African and, of course, Africa is not given the due credit when it is advertised. It’s just a cool “new” trend. Knowing the history of the continent and how it has been (and continues to be) pillaged and colonized, the very least they can do is acknowledge and respect the origin of those fabrics and buy from African designers. At the end of the day, people are going to do what they want to do, but I would prefer that non-African people wear African fabrics for reasons other than “it looks cool.” That will challenge people to actually research the history of what they are wearing, perhaps even to the point that they would rather not wear it out of respect. When in doubt, my advice is to wear the fabric if you’re invited by someone in the culture to do so (wedding, etc.).
Have you learned something new in this interview with Mary? Does her insight change or affect your own personal wrap style?
If you would like to share your wrap style in the Clap for That Wrap series, just shoot me an email! I'd love to hear from you!