Erykah Badu

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The head wrap is undeniably a glorious African statement piece. It is known as dhuku/duku in Zimbabwe, Mali, Ghana, tukwi in Botswana, gele in Nigeria and hijab or turban for muslim Africans.

Head coverings or head wraps are not particular to any cultural group.
Women across different societies have been covering their heads for centuries and for various purposes such as age, religious beliefs, marital status, class status, as well as for fashion statements. However, the fabric and manner in which it is wrapped around the head is what appears to be culturally specific, that is, the head wrap style or fashion in which it is worn is what classifies it to particular cultures and societies.

Head wraps hold a distinctive position in the history of African fashion both for their longevity and endurance through colonialism – it has remained a lasting fashion statement. International fashion designers are growingly incorporating head wraps into national and international fashion runways. Many celebrities and fashion influencers, like Erykah Badu and Luptia Nyong’o are also ambassadors of the head wrap. Head wraps are also common street wear with both the young and old alike incorporating them into their everyday styles. This is because head wraps have become such a versatile accessory that once can wear any day, during any season of the year with any outfit or on a bad-hair day. Here is a list of popular head wraps you can find these days.


Woman with her Dhuku/Duku

This type of head wrap can be worn in many different ways, influenced by Zimbabwean, Ghanaian and Malian women.

Sisters in wraps


This is a head wrap influenced by Nigerian women from the Yoruba culture, mostly worn for events, such as weddings, parties or church occasions. According to Yoruba mythology, the way a gele is tied can indicate whether a woman is married or not. A gele that has an end leaning to the left means she is single and leaning to the right means she is married. However, these Gele rules may no longer apply in modern day Nigeria.

Sharon Abimbola Salu wearing a Gele

Ndali – woman in Gele (Alakija Studios)


Women wearing turban style headwraps

Many young African women of muslim background have adapted the modern turban style. The turban style is so versatile that women of diverse cultures across the globe now wear it. It is history can be traced to various religious communities, unsurprisingly, women of all cultures have adapted the wrapping style as an everyday “fashion-with-a-purpose” statement.

Women wearing hijabs by @habibadasilva

Some other reasons women wear head wraps, aside complementing their looks, is to protect their hair from dust and harsh weather conditions.

Man/Woman of the Tuareg Tribe

Tuareg Men by James Michael Dorsey

Tuareg woman from Mali January 2007 (Wikimedia)

Oh, and did you know that even some African men wear head wraps as both for a purpose and as a fashion statement? One group of men who wear head wraps for a practical purpose are those from Nomadic tribes such as the Tuareg people, who live in the desert lands of the Sahara desert in North Africa. Heat and wind conditions in the desert can be very harsh, as such the Nomadic tribes that reside in these areas commonly use various head wrap styles for protection and other purposes.

Head wrap worn by Orlando Devon

On a more fashion-forward note, Riky Rick is a South African artist, who was the best dressed at the MTV MAMA awards for many years. Riky is big proponent of head wrap styles and voiced support for other entertainers like Tbo Touch, who was once mocked for wearing a white head wrap to the MAMA awards was “Open your minds, black people. Before it is too late”.

Riky Rick Makhado FB post

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