There is so much I do not know. I am humbled constantly by the overwhelming sonder that washes over me whenever I meet someone different than myself. Growing up very white, in a very white town, I am probably towards the bottom of a list of people you would expect to write about African head wrapping. So I am, of course, humbled and incredibly grateful to be telling you all about Imani McFarlane, Delmeshia Haynes, and their absolutely breathtaking work. This mother-daughter duo is Tafari Wraps, a Boston based business dedicated to the art of African head wrapping and its cultural significance.
Imani McFarlane moved to Boston from Jamaica when she was just ten years old. Not yet knowing the ugly racism that holds its unrelenting grip on America, she describes her culture shock in her video. “I felt like I was put into a pool…a deep pool, and had to learn how to swim.” She was 13 when she first started wearing head wraps. Local Rastafarians were able to share more about the culture, and McFarlane found her community within Rastafari.
Designing since the age of 16, McFarlane now boasts an impressive resume. She is a master seamstress, an educator and, of course, a business owner. Her daughter, Delmeshia Haynes, is now her business partner, COO of Tafari Wraps and a Wrapologist herself.
Haynes’ list of accomplishments is also something to behold. She is an educator, event coordinator, and an integral role in the logistics behind the business. Like her mother, she is dedicated to celebrating African Culture. Haynes is a champion in educating and preserving the ancestral lineage that is beautifully woven within the art of head wrapping.
Together, these two women visit retail establishments to teach the art of head wrapping and educate others on the vast culture steeped within it.
ART IN ANCESTRY
I want to describe Tafari Wraps’ creations and how gorgeous their wraps are – it’s hard to find the right words. Looking through their Instagram is, to me, like peeking through a previously unopened door, cracked just enough to allow a stream of light to flow from it. It’s an old door, older than my grandparents and their grandparents, and it’s beautiful and inviting. When I pull it open a little bit more, the light is warm. I’ve found myself looking in from the outside, at a culture so different from my own. I want to tread carefully so as to not unintentionally disrespect or disrupt.
When I say African Diasporic religion and culture is rich, I’m talking double chocolate cake rich. Learning about African Culture, for me, was like being plucked by the Hands of God and submerged, head first, into another world. A world right next to me all the time, that I never deeply explored. I am so glad I have pulled open the old door. The beauty is blinding. Color, Pride, Light, are the words that come to mind. One cannot fully understand the beauty, the divinity of head wrapping without learning about its cultural significance. So, what’s it about?
African Diaspora religions and Traditions
Can I sum it up in one word? No. Can I sum it up in one article? No. Can I sum it up in one lifetime? Almost certainly not. It would be a disservice to Diasporic Religions to even attempt to do so. These religions and traditions span different countries, continents, different languages, and myriad Deities. I will not try to teach what I do not understand. However, there are explicit characteristics of these religions, of which I am excited to share with you.
African diaspora religions are several related religions that developed in the Americas, specifically the nations of the Caribbean and Latin America. There is a term for a group of related religions: Religious Syncretism “exhibits the blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation of beliefs from unrelated traditions into a religious tradition.”
They are derived from traditional African religions. These religions involve ancestor worship and include a creator Deity, as well as a pantheon of divine gods. Many of these individual religions also include elements of folk Catholicism.
Mcfarlane discusses Rastafari specifically in her video. “Rastafari is a way of life, a natural way of life…a way to connect with your divine self.” A monotheistic religion, Rastafarians believe in Jah (God). Music, singing and dancing, and prayer are all facets of Rasta. Head wrapping is an important tradition within the culture. Reading about Rasta was enlightening; I connected with their prayers.
“Jah causes the sun to rise and to set, a new day comes every 24 hours. With this new beginning day, we are encouraged to release all that is no longer serving us, and make way for new opportunities, and experiences to come.”Segment of a Rastafari prayer for forgiveness
A CULTURE IN COLOR
Pouring through Tafari Wraps’ Instagram is an adventure. The colors McFarlane uses are so rich, so bright, and so bold. Red, yellow and green are the primary color elements, and there is a good reason for it. Color choices are intrinsically linked to the culture and spiritualism of Rastafarianism and other Afro Diasporic Religions and, in turn, head wrapping.
Red represents the blood of Black people who were killed while fighting for justice and civil rights, and standing up against slavery. The yellow represents the wealth of Africa, especially gold. The green represents the lush vegetation of Ethiopia, the Promised Land. McFarlane and Haynes use these colors to uplift and celebrate their culture, and the result is undeniably gorgeous. These colors pack a punch; they evoke strength. As well they should – the strength and endurance of Black Women throughout the history of our country and other colonizing countries is immeasurable. Where would we even begin? I wouldn’t even know where to start, so I’ll say this. Be loudly anti-racist and support Black Women whenever the opportunity arises. It is, quite literally, the very least we can do to help heal the wounds of slavery.
Home grown strength
Earlier, I mentioned that there were so many different types of African Diasporic religions that it would be an impossible feat to deep dive into them all. There is, however, one country I would like to focus on for just a moment, and that country is the United States.
Yes, right here at home, Afro Diasporic religions were born. Hoodoo was created in the Southern United States as a way of resisting slavery. Hoodoo was practiced in secret.
I find myself humbled again. The United States is a young country, and slavery is not as far away as we sometimes like to pretend it is. To go from needing to hide your beliefs from the monsters that enslaved you to operating a business where your beliefs are not only celebrated, but taught, is a testament to the incredible endurance and strength of humanity. That is not to say we are done with the work. Today, our country seems so polarized we may never heal. There is systemic racism strangling our country, fueled by ignorance and fear. The racism within our police forces alone continues to be devastating to the Black Community. Yet, it is apparent, there will be no silence against white supremacy. Again and again, Black Americans demonstrate strength and resilience I could never replicate.
Imani McFarlane and Delmeshia Haynes are a part of the solution. Through their celebration of culture, there is inspiration. Through their education and outreach, there is hope. And, through McFarlane’s incredible designs, there is a loud, unapologetic, brilliant beauty. McFarlane and Haynes are providing for us what we so desperately need. Education, pride, strength, and the courage to be your true self. As beautiful as their creations are, so too is their mission.