Friday, October 27, 2006


Gele is the traditional headpiece of the Yoruba. A few months ago we had an office party, with an Ascot theme. I racked my brain trying to decide what type of hat I wanted to buy or make. I had the idea of making a papier-mache hat, but did not have enough time to do it. Okay, the real reason is that I used to feel creativity challenged, until I attended a course in September. This was all due to my Arts teacher in Secondary school, Mama, but that is a story for another day. Anyway, my sister-in-law suggested buying a plain hat and adding flowers or fruit to it. It was during this period of trying to stimulate my inexistent -as I thought at the time- creative juices that I went to Nigeria. It was a very short trip- barely five days. One of the reasons for this trip was a friend's wedding. Before hand I had arranged for the Gele and Fila to be bought for CK. and I. Fila is a male cap. As usual, on the wedding day, I had to get someone to tie my Gele for me. I can tie the normal cloth ones in one style, and I can usually tie the Aso-Oke ones, but I had never successfully tied "paper" or damask Geles. My Gele was superb, she tied it so fast and it stayed on all day.
The Office party was a week after we returned from our Nigeria trip. I still did not have a hat for the party and was toying with the idea of just going to the party normally dressed. " Why don't you tie a Gele?” CK asked. I bet nobody would have any hat as nice as yours at the party. At first I was inclined to scoff at his idea, but after thinking about it for I while, I decided it would have been a good idea if only I knew how to tie a Gele. Unfortunately for me, I do not know any Yoruba women and very few Nigerians in general where I live. If I were in London now, I could have my pick of people to tie the Gele for me. So I gave up the idea. But CK insisted that it couldn't be so hard could it-proves that he is a man, right? After window-shopping unsuccessfully for the perfect hat, I decided to try my hand at tying a Gele. I tried unsuccessfully to tie my Gele the whole weekend. Even CK also tried. It ended up looking really weird every time, nothing like all those nice pictures one sees. I looked like one of those mad women you see on Nollywood movies. I searched for ideas on the Internet, found mostly inadequate sites, meant in my opinion for unsuspecting African Americans out of their money. Here is one such site. Seriously, who would buy a head tying video? I got some tips from guys at the NVS. Someone sent me different websites, and I got this video from someone there. Check out all the different styles. And they make tying a Gele seem as simple as ABC.

So I spent my evenings for the next week playing this video over and over again trying unsuccessfully to grasp the technique. So I basically gave up…until the night before the party, when I decided to try again. I stayed till 12 before the mirror and finally managed to tie one, the golden Gele from my friends wedding, and using the same technique, I tied another one (which I had not even remembered I had)!!!!! I went to the party with my Gele, and everyone was like wow!!! I won second prize for the best hat, even though everyone says mine was the best and they just gave it to the wife of an Oga. But na them know. I am so happy that I tied my first Gele independently, and even won a one and a half litre bottle of champagne for it. The picture above is one of us on the podium parading our hats. As you can see, I'm contestant number 15.I am so proud of my Gele tying achievement. Agreed, none of the people there know what it should look like anyway, so I could have got away with tying anything. In any case, I feel like I have come of age as a Naija woman. Now, lets wait and see if I can repeat the feat next time I'm invited to a Nigerian party!!!!


Jeremy said...

Hey Arin. Just for your benefit, I have posted a short-film of a Gele being tied on my blog... jw.

Marin said...

Hey Jeremy,

Thanks for the video.
You've got a great blog and I have read your blog daily now for about a year!

BLOG WATCH!!!! Don't forget to give credit if you borrow anything from this blog.