As a way of honoring Black history this month, the Mullica Hill Library will host a workshop focused on traditional African head wraps and waist beads on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
“This program is in honor of Black History Month,” said adult services librarian Debbie Drachman of the annual February observance. “Yes, it is both an artistic and educational event. The workshop provides in-depth teaching about the history and culture of head wrapping and waist beads.
“The workshop will also offer a demonstration on how to tie a head wrap or how to create waist beads through self-expression,” she added. “This is the first time we have hosted this program.”
The 7 p.m. workshop will be led by Natasha Waters, the African American owner of The Queen’s Storehouse in Mantua. The business specializes in the African head wraps and waist beads, as well as other African-themed items for those passionate about their heritage.
“She has provided programs for area organizations and libraries throughout Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, including the Glassboro branch (of the Gloucester County Library System) last week,” said Drachman.
The session will include a one-on-one head wrapping tutorial and a history presentation. The event is free, but registration is required with a form that notes first and last name, phone number and email. A group must register each attendee separately.
African head wrapping traces its roots to sub-Saharan Africa in the 1700s, according to the JD School of Design in India. It came to be a form of expression for women in the region that represented such factors as social and marital status.
Head wraps soon made their way across the Atlantic with African slaves, and the practice was nearly abandoned because of a negative connotation. But the practice has gradually made a comeback as is now embraced by men as well.
Waist beads have an ancient history: They were popularized by the Yoruba Tribe in Nigeria during the 15th century, according to Variant magazine. The beads can be made of wood, glass and crystal, among other elements, and are seen as signs of wealth, aristocracy, spiritual well-being and femininity.