Gele: The Art of Wrapping Fabric


Gele: The Art of Wrapping
Often times I am stopped and asked about the ‘hat of fabric’ on my head. To the children, it is something of amusement….spawning giggles and curiosity. To the adults, it is often an interesting accessory….creating a fascination towards not only its symbolism, but to its technique as well.

This ‘hat of fabric’, as it is often referred to, actually has a name. It is called a gele. The word stems from the Yoruba people of West Africa and it is not actually a hat, but a coil of fabric wrapped on top of ones head in a designed fashion. In many African countries, this piece of attire is symbolic of several things. For starters, it is worn only by women . Secondly, it serves to identify anything from her family bloodline to her social, cultural and/or marital status.

The technique for wrapping the gele varies depending on the purpose. Often times if the woman is attending a specific affair or ceremonial event, the style, color & print will play an important part.
To wrap your own head only a few steps are needed.
Step 1 Select about 2 yards of fabric . Any color or print that appeals to you will do. I suggest you use a light-weight fabric that does not have a slippery feel to it. This will allow your hair to breathe, and the gele to stay comfortable and in place on your head. The piece should be rectangular and anything less than 2 yards might prove difficult to utilize, as this covering is formed by wrapping and requires length to do so. If you want to have more options in your style of wrap, use more fabric…but keep in mind that your gele may be heavier as well.

Step 2 Wrap your head starting from one end of the material, leaving the bulk of it in the hand that will carry it around. Hold it at the base of your neck and cross over it with the remaining fabric creating an overlay. This will hold the gele in place. Wrap the rest of the fabric around your head and tuck the end into the folds of the fabric to secure. Shape the formed layers as you wish. For a tight fit, once you complete your first rotation, continue to secure the fabric around your head as you go. For a looser style, be more carefree in your wrapping.

Step 3 Once your wrap is complete, trust yourself. You look beautiful!

Posts by J&O

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