The use of the African turban also called foulard in French, as it is called in West Africa, or gele for the Yoruba people, has its origins in Sub-Saharan Africa and for the black woman or Afro-descendant has a direct connection with her ancestry and history as part of the same black ethnicity.
The African turban comes to our American continent with the African diaspora, which, as a result of the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century, was the victim of kidnapping, sale, torture and exploitation of African people.
In those times, black women in slavery combed their braids for escape routes to the palenques, or free land. According to Afro-Colombian researcher Emilia Valencia, the turban was used by the enslaved women "to cover their braids with it, among which they hid the seeds and gold that would later serve to ensure the food survival of their communities and to buy freedom. The turban was also used to mitigate the weight caused by the pans full of water or food that women had to carry, this practice is still possible today in some areas of countries where there is a strong black presence
Experts and researchers point out that the type of turban has a special meaning for black women, since it is said that the knots would indicate a certain hierarchy within the communities. For the Afro Sol de las Salas hairdresser, ''when the knot is halfway down, it synchronizes with the location of the sun. It means that the sun is also on that side, that's why the palenqueras think they are going to sell all the contents of their basins, and when the turban has three turns, it's a commemoration of the mother, the father and the children.
Nowadays, not everywhere where there is an Afro-descendant or black population these ways of wearing the turban are still in force. Nonetheless, it is clear that the African turban for Afro women has great meaning and connection to our roots.
When a black or Afro-Descendant woman is wearing the turban, she is wearing a crown that unites her with her other sisters and fellow fighters. For us Afro women, wearing a turban is a form of belonging, pride, and identity.