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Object Timeline

1901

  • Work on this object began.

1969

  • We acquired this object.

  • Work on this object ended.

2013

2015

2020

  • You found it!

Woman's Head Wrap (Nigeria)

This is a Woman's head wrap. We acquired it in 1969. Its medium is cotton and its technique is hand-loomed warp-faced plain weave, supplementary weft patterning. It is a part of the Textiles department.

A married woman must wear a head wrap, or gèlè, in order for her to feel fully and properly dressed. The manner in which she wraps her gèlè is a personal creative expression. With each wearing, the seven-foot length of cloth is folded, pleated, pinched, tucked, and spread into a new form. Because the inner head is seen as the center of individuality and spirituality, a beautifully adorned head honors the sacred self.[1] This hand-woven cotton cloth has enough body and stiffness to create dramatic sculptural forms.




[1] Mary Jo Arnoldi, "Headdresses and Hairdos," in Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion Vol. 1: Africa, edited by Joanne B. Eicher and Doran Ross (Oxford: Berg, 2011).

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Yoruba Complete.

This object was donated by Mrs. Calvin W. Stillman.

Our curators have highlighted 7 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

Cite this object as

Woman's Head Wrap (Nigeria); cotton; 1969-11-5

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition David Adjaye Selects: Works from the Permanent Collection.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18467869/ |title=Woman's Head Wrap (Nigeria) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=1 December 2020 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>