Many women want freedom and independence. In what ways do they desire this? In all spheres? Certainly not with gele.
Headgear, popularly known as “gele” in western Africa has become a norm in most settings today. Gele is a Yoruba term that means head covering. The gele comes in different colours , patterns and textures. Among the most popular are: damask, aso-oke, jubilee, zenith and netting.
Women tie gele for several reasons: to look unique, to exude a certain aura, and mostly, to look beautiful. Styles of gele differ and also resemble various things. For example, with the demise of the world trade centre, a style of gele that was steep and high with many folds was created in its wake.
Another style of gele was to resemble a bird called cuckoo. The bird had a long tail and so the gele was sculpted in the same manner.
When the rate of production of sweets and their colourful wrappers increased, the most recent production of gele at that time was called “pepa sweet” by Yoruba women. This was because the gele had flower designs all through and was colourful indeed.
At the turn of the century however, Nigerian women turned back to the aso-oke now woven with silk threads and no longer with woolen threads. With one end of the gele loose and the different but matching colours mixed together, it made a beautiful headgear for chiefly the Yoruba women at traditional occasions.
Then, it is without doubt that the different styles of gele express women’s innermost feelings and designs that cannot be expressed with merely the pen and ink.
In a discussion with women who loved to tie gele, many of them said they just tied it to look unique. Others said they did to look beautiful, while those that had an artistic turn said since they could not express their designs on paper, they expressed it in their manner of dressing and grooming.
The different styles of tying result from a broad and colourful mind and an imagery that has been fueled by the social decline of a once picturesque country. And also one that is determined to express herself without rivalry from the opposite sex. Speaking for myself, I have had few opportunities to tie one. Matter- of- factly, I don’t even own one. However, I cherish the freedom I have to move my head around without the weight of fashion to bolt it down.