Earlier this year, in my research for this website, I came across an event that celebrates the diversity of the covered head by bringing together groups from different cultures and faiths that use a head covering to observe and uphold their beliefs. The event, which began in Detroit Michigan, but has traveled in some capacity to different countries, is called the Beautifully Wrapped Headwrap Expo. The founder and organizer of this event is Detroit native, Zarinah El-Amin. Ms. El-Amin is a woman who has caught the attention of others with her many stylish headcoverings.
El-Amin's headwraps, an expression of her Islamic heritage, piqued the interest of so many other women, inspiring the need to begin workshops in which she would teach the art of the headwrap.
Alongside the headwrap workshops, El-Amin's creative endeavors include a 12-month calendar spread, highlighting the beauty of headcoverings. This publication, much like the expo, is an interfaith and international expression of the covered head.
The first expo, which began back in 2014 was a bootstrap project, funded by Zarinah El-Amin herself, and ran through the volunteer efforts of friends and colleagues. It was such a success, that the demand for a follow-up transformed the one time event into an annual affair.
The expo is comprised of interactive workshops, where attendees can learn various wrap styles hailing from different cultures and faiths. There are also vendors providing distinct merchandise. The fashion show is the main event, showcasing a cornucopia of fabrics, folds, layers, and colors all wrapped skillfully upon the crowns of participatung models in the show. The Ford Community & Performing Center, located in Dearborn,Michigan is the venue in which the annual event began.Due to the disruptive changes of the Covid-19 epidemic, the Expo was put on hiatus for 2020 with plans to resume its cross-cultural event in 2021.
Headcovering in the 21st century is a very personal journey for many. In the black community, where many aspects of African culture have had mixed views, the covered head has been fraught with criticism. The 1800s inspired Tignon law, which required black a woman to cover her hair. This racist legislation adopted headwraps as method of control and submission to the kinky nature of the black woman.
The 1970s was a time of time of renewal in cultural pride. African garb and fashion made a resurgence. A second revival can be seen in emergence of conscious hip hop in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Celebrities such as Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Erykah Badu, and Queen Latifah are some of the trendsetters whose covered head was representative of a reclaiming of African adoration and the need to make a statement.
My own memories as a young woman coming of age is of being teased by my peers in high school for trying to "go back to Africa " with my various kente printed headwraps or crowns (African inspired fabric headwear).
Even in my early 20s, I experienced something that was walking a tightrope of ignorance and racism, when a white coworker that I was close to told me that I was a pretty girl and that she didn't want to hurt my feelings, but my various headwraps made me look like Aunt Jemima.
I'm glad that movements like Zarinah's Headwrap Expo are educating the world on the beauty and significance of the covered head, whatever the motivation for wearing it may be.There is a sense of pride, femininity, protection, and spiritual connectedness that I have felt during my year-long journey into covering my head in 2020. During our phone conversation Ms. El-Amin agreed that headcovering has a deep spiritual significance that at times is visceral.
Although she is a master at this art style, there is so much more to Zarinah. Alongside her event organizing, she is a globetrotting traveler that takes small groups of people around in a culture-safari of sorts. She is also a public speaker and advocate for Muslim issues. She is an author, publisher, and coach who encourages and mentors others in their pursuit of becoming a writer.
Check out the exclusive interview I had with Zarinah El-Amin on my YouTube channel Blvd 40:
(this is an unlisted video with limited access, please bookmark this blog for future reference to the video)
I thank Ms. El-Amin for taking the time to speak with me about her personal and professional experience with head covering. Her skills with this practice make her the Queen of Wrap in my book! I hope to have an opportunity to speak with her again.
Learn more about Zarinah El-Amin: