Gele tying and its uniqueness

By  Oluwaseun Boye

Stepping out in traditional attires may definitely not be complete without a touch of headgear to match, especially for occasions such as weddings, birthdays, burial parties, coronation, thanks giving, house warming to mention a few in this part of the world.

According to research, it is not quite clear where the custom originated from, but headgear is an evergreen cultural accessory across Africa, particularly in Nigeria, where it is referred to as ‘gele’.

With its resurgence at “Owambes”, the head wrap  or headgear has become stylish among African communities across the world.

Experts in the use of gele are the Yorubas and Igbos, who perfected the tying of this traditional head dress into elaborate styles to enhance the beauty of the face, complement the outfit and act as a regal crown to grace the head of proud, dignified African women.

For the Yoruba culture, women’s choice for  gele is Aso-Oke, which is a textured, tightly hand-woven, glossy, cotton cloth crafted in a variety of traditional patterns and colours. The threads used in weaving are mostly cotton, silk, rayon and metallic lurex fibres. The result is a shiny, stiff fabric which resembles great quality wrapping paper. Wearing Aso-Oke was traditionally a sign of wealth for both men and women; little wonder its “top cloth” and was favoured by Nigeria’s Obas. Other types of gele include: paper gele, sego, damask, silk, “onjawu”.

For a basic wrap, what is required is between a half and whole yard of fabric. For most Nigerian women, wrapping a gele may not be as easy as tying a bow, but for women who wants to stand out and be the cynosure of all eyes at parties, they may need to employ the services of make up artists or gele experts, though this services come with a fee of between N500 and N1,000.

According to a fashion expert, Mrs.Yemisi Onanuga,” Most importantly, tieing of gele completes our dressing as women and makes anyone on it stands out, especially when tied in different shapes and sizes.

Gele, on any woman in an event, commands some respect, as well as displaying cultural values.On colour choice, most designers agreed that head ties should match the rest of the outfit, or complement the theme of the occasion, especially for weddings”, she stated.

Geles come in different shapes and designs, they include: Butterfly gele,  Fan, “Oleku”, double gele, pleated gele, flowery umbrella gele, side twisted fan amongst others. The choice of design however depends on the occasion, the texture of the gele and facial appearance.

Apart from the fact that gele makes an occasion uniform, it adds glamour and elegance to parties.

Nowadays, gele tying has its own economic advantage, it has become  a lucrative source of income to people who sees gele tying as a part time vocation.

Oluwaseun Boye  is an Information with the Ogun State Ministry of Information and Strategy.

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