What Do You Think Of Head Coverings?

The Obi of Awkuzu December 1960 by Richard & Helen Henderson

Okao Aiwerioghene, Benin City, 1991 by Phyllis Galembo

Servitor Homel Dorival, standing in a sacred space, poses with a ceremonial cupused in rituals, Soukri, Haiti, 1995 by Phyllis Galembo

“Age-grade” (Ogbo) 02-16ogbo-douglas-royals-360x230 By Richard & Helen Henderson

Oungan Silva Joseph dressed Ogou Badagri, in the uniform of a military general, Haiti, 1993 by Phyllis Galembo

Group of natives, Onitsha, Nigeria 1905-11, photo by Robert Mcwhirter, who says: Notice woman with brass leg ornaments (3rd from right). These ornaments are put on when woman is young, and cannot be taken off, but woman is very proud of them.-768x541

Chief J.O. Adetula, Owo, Nigeria, 1994

Sierra Leone, 2008-2009 by phyllis-galembo

Question: What Do You Think About Head Coverings? And Are They Linked To Spirituality?

Here’s my response;

As far back as the ways of being of African peoples is concerned, head coverings in whatever form has always been a part of our social costume. Regardless of sex and gender, folks were known to wrap or cover their hair/head (the African way) with cloth or indigenous caps. Infact till today, even in modern times, it’s almost impossible to find a complete african outfit for social or ceremonial settings without a form of head covering to match.

Till this day in many African communities, in Igbo land for example (because it’s the group i understand the most), it’s rare to see a titled chief (again regardless of sex and gender) or a well respected member of the society go about social activities in their community with their head naked (out bare). Very rare, even after centuries of folks being brainwashed out of their traditional beliefs. This practice of covering the head in one form or another is still the norm in most African communities and amongst local societies. Now why that fixture, of people above a certain age within our communities taking to wearing head coverings when in public (especially within their own communities) as a natural or traditional (even ancient) practice exists at all is another subject. And whether or not these folks (our own people) who have have adopted such practice as an automatic thing or as a thing of conviction for a lifetime, can begin to list their reasons for you one after the other, other than the fact that it’s simply an ancient and expected practice (in some cases even required practice) is a different matter altogether.

As to what I think about head coverings in general, especially within the African context or modern aesthetic context, i think they’re great especially when it’s a free choice. As to the other part of the question on whether or not they are linked to spirituality, i can only respond from personal experience, personal observations and personal practice. 

It’s very rare to catch me outside or in public without my head covered, either we have a head tie, head sock, a cap, bucket hat, or hoodie on. One way or another my head is usually covered, especially when I’m in public spaces. This practice for me resulted from direct instructions that came from the role i play as a person with a spiritual mandate from my community and lineage, it’s simply a part of the regalia or physical presentation. And if I’m being honest, it’s also a spiritual practice of some sort. Because if you interrogate the reasons for that expectation of me for my head (upper hair area) not supposed to be readily exposed to members of the general public, you’d find that there’s a direct link between that instruction and the somatic science of energy preservation (keeping the energy which is believed to peak at our head area preserved), there’s also the metaphysics of preventing corruption of one’s energy (especially as an esteemed member of the community or one with a spiritual mandate). Most indigenous science have detailed explanations for some of these phenomenons and practices. In the western world, some of these energy fields are referred to as chakras and aura emitters. It’s believed that the more esteemed a person is in the soul, spirit and otherwise, the more sensitive they are or should be to outside influences and consequently may have to be more conscious of how they protect or interact with  those areas of their body or physical make up that could easily make them vulnerable.

With that said, anyhow, it’s important to state it’s never always that deep and in the current world we live in most people can (or have) evolve/ed out of those beliefs. Folks just wear head coverings because they like them, they look good and in some cases they’re warm! It can be and is mostly one of those very simple reasons.

I mentioned some abstract reasons only because the question raised spirituality as a subject. So yes the practice can be linked to spirituality and a lot of people wear them as a spiritual practice, however that’s just a possibility and is not always the case. Both things, whether separately or simultaneously, can be true. 

I’ve tried to answer as clearly as I know how. If you have interesting information to bring forward as a response to the question, feel free to send your thoughts my way! We’ll pass it out. 

Life is short. Do the things you like and enjoy. We make the cultures that make us, not the other way round. Everything is negotiable 😉

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