The Covering - wearing headscarves

Thursday, 11 October 2018



There is one thing that I wear almost every single day of my life. I feel naked walking out of the house without it. Underwear? Not that.

A headscarf. A doek. Tukwi.


 The varied cultural and religious histories surrounding headscarves mean that people are quick to dismiss personal choice as the reason for draping cloth over our heads. They can’t see that the freedom given to us by this meter-long cloth stretches from centuries past to present times. The rebellion of our ancestors, they can’t see. The skills passed to us with a few words, ‘Just do it’, if you can tie your shoe laces, you have all it takes to create art on your head. Grandmothers tying triangular pastel coloured headscarves on our little heads, these are memories that unravel every morning with every flick.

The strength, the boldness, the creativity, the gentleness, the hopes, the joys, the sorrows of our great -great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, all wrapped up on our heads. We face the world confident and free.


A one off, never to be repeated piece of art. You will never be able to fully recreate your look. Each wrap, tuck, knot has a life of its own. A short life. Throughout the day, your scarf undergoes many reincarnations. If you are lucky or have pins at hand or tied your headgear tight enough to be rewarded with a headache, then your creation will last until evening. There isn’t any right way to cover your head. There aren’t any tricks to wrap your head around. The doke doesn’t require perfection from us. Its whisper is that you should trust your hands.

You can choose to have  neon orange on your head, you can find freedom in mutes and neutrals. The colours can be an unspoken way of connecting with those around us, of saying that we are in a good place (blues for me), of communicating our grief to others (culturally that is black for me). Vibrant colours are for days when I am tired of my quiet-ever hiding-always passive self.


With the current movement with natural hair among black women, tukwi simplifies my life. No perfect curls and twists to worry about. No obsession on length checks. Feels a bit like freedom. With different textures -silky, pleated, sequined, varying lengths and widths, different shapes -rectangles, squares, triangles …I see no limitations. No boredom. A thousand permutations and combinations to create – I still don’t understand anything about permutations and combinations but seems fitting, so there you go.

Are you going to stock up headscarves for the winter, why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

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