A duku or head tie is a women’s clothing item that is usually worn in West Africa and Southern Africa. It is usually worn as a fashion item or for purposes of practical functionality.
The duku is usually styled by folding it into a triangle, pulling the ends to the back of the head, bringing it to the front, and then tying a knot or bow on the side of the head or the side, depending on what occasion one is marking or even for what activity one is participating in.
Like most clothing item of Ghanaian and even African origin, the colour of duku one wears and the way it is styled has a significant meaning and conveys a particular message. A black or red duku for instance, shows that one is either attending a funeral or that one is bereaved. In such circumstances the duku will be worn by tying a knot in front, in the middle of one’s forehead.
When a relatively young person predeceases their parents, white clothing including white dukus may be worn at the funeral, in what is referred to variously in our local parlances as the fia ceremony. Again, in some tribes, twins do not wear any other colour of duku to funerals apart from white.
A white duku signifies the birth of a child, or the celebration of a victory or special blessing. The Ga tribe are especially identified with the white duku. They wear it for most of their festivals and special occasions. It is believed that white dukus attract good luck. A woman who has a safe delivery will be adorned with white cloth and white duku. As the baby grows, the colour of the duku and clothes with change to golden tones (which is believed to signify wealth and prosperity) and then to other vibrant colours.
Marriage ceremonies and other special happy occasions are marked with specially selected dukus, sometimes in the same colours and tied in the same style as a show of solidarity and unity.
Traditionally, dukus are worn with slit and kaba or with Ankara fabrics sewn in an African style. But times changing fast and now, the duku is used to accessorize almost all kinds of clothing styles.
One may for instance chose to wear a denim and a T shirt and then throw a fancy duku on it or decide to wear a classy duku tied in a sophisticated bun for a black-tie event or for other formal events.
Apart from dukus being worn for fashion reasons, they also posses other significances. In some African traditions, the wearing of duku by women is believed to signify moral uprightness or chastity, especially of women. Married women, for instance would rather go about with their heads covered in a duku, than with their bare heads, with their hair showing.
Also covering one’s head with a scarf has religious implications. The Jews for instance are required by the Torah that married women wear scarves.
Mostly during prayers or prayer time, women are more likely to cover their heads than to leave it. Moslem women and some Hindi tribes for instance are required to cover their heads at all times as a sign of reverence for their husbands. It is believed that the woman’s glory is her hair and that she is not to show nor share that with the general public.
But dukus are not the preserve of just women. Now, some men accessorize with dukus. It is believed that the bandana worn by black males in America has its roots in the duku tradition.
There are meanings to how people tie their dukus.
The various styles have names like hyia me wo nkwata (in Akan) which is usually worn by women in love, suggesting a venue for a date with their love interest.
The Jee nnor duku style in Ga is worn when one is trying to convey a nonchalant attitude. The keemo mie fee or money swine style of duku is fun to wear. It signifies playfulness and prosperity.
The nkuu nsee nbaa donn (I hsall not return) style is worn with both sides of the duku hanging out. The style is most common among market women and traders. Baa kwe ni oya ta (rumour monger), is another popular style with the Gas in the greater Accra region.
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