Marching Womens History: Headwraps

Posted on 12 March 2011 Saturday


Georgia Scott, Art Director, NY Times

In, 2000, Georgia Scott became fascinated with the fad in the US Black community of wearing headwraps. Her passions overtook her, she re-arranged her life and parted for a year-long voyage to discover why women in various parts of the globe cover their heads, who wears headwraps and what they have in common. She seemed to have found more variations than commonalities. Head coverings can be made of silk, muslin, gauze, wool or other fabrics that are tied, wrapped, folded or twisted.

In many countries, such as India, Jamaica, Kenya, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates, they are worn mainly for religious reasons. The way a headscarf is worn in the United Arab Emirates, for example, not only indicates a woman’s country of origin, but also hints at her interpretation of the Qu’ran and its edicts on feminine modesty. In other regions, headwraps reinforce social differences, distinguishing the wealthy from the poor, men from women and clans from other clans. Or they mark major events. In some ethnic communities in rural China, for example, a headwrap indicates a woman’s coming-of-age: the embroidery work on the turban of a young Yao woman in the mountains of Thailand indicates that she is able to make clothes for the family and is therefore ready for marriage. In some countries headwraps are an integral part of daily life. In Morocco, Mali and Niger, for example, harsh climate conditions make headwraps a daily necessity, while in other countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, traditional headwarps are reserved for special occasions, such as weddings and official state functions.

Headwraps are worn in atleast 44 countries in the worlds. In her travels, Scott traveled to 32. While she includes men’s head coverings in her writing, she admits what they wear pales by comparison to the women’s attire. The use of headwraps in these countries is changing through the effects of globalization. Scott has been able to document important cultural images and offer interesting insights to the nuances of what is worn on heads around the globe.

The bright, attractive photos will attract reluctant readers while students who are interested in history, geography, cultural and women’s issues will naturally gravitate to this book.

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Posted in: Women's History