How to Tie a Gele

Updated February 21, 2017

Whether for Kwanzaa, a wedding or everyday life, women can show pride in their African heritage by wearing a gele. In West Africa, women traditionally wrap their heads with these long strips of brightly-coloured fabric (see Reference 1). This practice carried over to Caribbean countries (see Reference 1). Although traditionally geles are made of exotic fabrics, such as brocade or damask (see Reference 1), heavy cotton works just as well (see Reference 2, p. 51).

Grasp one end of the gele in your right hand and the other end in your left hand. Lower your head and position the back of your head in the middle of the gele.

Bring your head upright, pulling tightly on both ends of the gele.

Wrap the end of the gele in your right hand around your head toward your left ear and then switch your hands. Wrap the other end of the gele around your head toward your right ear.

Bring both ends of the gele around to the back of your head. Adjust the tightness so that the gele is secure but comfortable. Secure the gele with a double knot.

Tuck in any loose strands of hair around your face.

Arrange the extra material. By extending this material upward, you can create an extravagant look. Or, you can tuck the extra material into the wrap to create a more conservative look.


Alternatively, you can wrap the gele around your head one more time and position the knot in front. Insert pins into the knot to provide extra security. Heavily starched geles are easier to tie and arrange. If you have difficulty, practice wrapping and tying a gele on a friend's hair.

Things You'll Need

  • Gele, or 6 feet of 12-inch wide cotton fabric
  • Pins, optional
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About the Author

Kat Black is a professional writer currently completing her doctorate in musicology/ She has won several prestigious awards for her research, and has had extensive training in classical music and dance.