African culture is often appropriated or misunderstood in western countries, resulting in situations where Black people feel their culture is constantly being ridiculed, whitewashed or eroded. This results in situations, where for example, young black girls are told that they cannot wear an afro or even rock a head wrap to a non-uniform school.
But British-Nigerian photographer, Juliana Kasumu, is giving gele-tying goals and much-needed history lessons on the history of African head-ties in her photo series, Moussour to Tignon: The Evolution of the Head-Tie.
Speaking to Okay Africa, Juliana Kasumu, explains the historic and iconic West African roots of the head-tie which has continued to be a part of black culture today particularly for Afro-Creoles in New Orleans and Los Angeles:
“Moussor’ is actually what they call the head tie in Senegal, and ‘tignon’ is the name for the head tie in New Orleans, or Louisiana."
‘Moussor’, that comes from the origins of the Islamic influence during the 17th-18th centuries, and how you saw that transformation from the fashions of the Senegalese, and the influence of them wearing their head coverings, and their dressings, and it adapting into what you see today.”
With so much slay being served in these pictures, it's easy to get engrossed and forget there is a very important story behind them; After three months of research and guidance from Madame Barbara Trevigne, a head-tie expert in New Orleans, Kasumu discoverd an edict in 1786 by Esteban Rodríguez Miró, governor of the Spanish American provinces of Louisiana and Florida, which demanded that all black women (whether slaves or free-born) had to cover their heads in public to differentiate themselves from white women.
This was reportedly due to jealousy from white women because white soldiers who traveled to Louisiana had sexual relationships with Black women, which violated the Code Noir that regulated relationships between colonists and Blacks.
But because black girls are magic and everything they touch becomes flawless, this edict was a massive failure as Kasumu explains:
“They looked even more beautiful, and more appealing, and they used to decorate these head wraps with jewels, and plumes. They became more attractive if anything. It just backfired,”
Today, we live in a world were African women at home and abroad rock flawless geles to every event they can and were Black women in the US and UK are fighting for their right to identify with and celebrate their African culture through their hair and clothing. This duality is real and to this all I can say is:
Black women continue to be magic regardless of what anyone says or does.
Kasumu's photographs are currently on display at the McKenna Museum of African-American Art in New Orleans until October 11. To learn more about Juliana Kasumu and her work, head to her website and be blessed.