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Feature: From Paris France, Q&A with Turbanista.com founder Aïssata Kamara


Courtesy of Turbanista.com from Paris, France

Courtesy of Turbanista.com

 

 

Crowning Glory: Turbanista


By: Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé

Ottawa, Canada

 

In Senegal, a woman’s turban is her crowning glory.

 

And to Aïssata Kamara, it is a garment worthy of great passion. I recently spoke with Aïssata, Dakar-born founder and curator of Turbanista.com, a blog from Paris, France dedicated to her passion for the art of the turban. An iconic vestment of Africa, the turban – the moussör or kala in Senegal, the gele in Nigeria – is rooted in history and tradition, marriage, femininity, and beauty. Kamara explains why she chose the turban, and what it means to her.

 

Aïssata Kamara

Aïssata Kamara

 

What drew you to the turban? Why did you decide to focus on this iconic piece?

 

When I’ve started Turbanista.com in June 2011, I had been blogging for years on many platforms, but mainly on Timodelle. I’m the owner of the French fashion & beauty blog www.Timodelle-Magazine.com.

 

With Turbanista, I wanted to share my passion for the Turban with another audience.  There are turbanistas in many countries, and wearing this headpiece has different meaning according where you are from.

 

In Senegal, my country, we call it “Moussör” or “Kala” (I’m Fulani/Peul); in Nigeria women wear the gele, and they tie it differently.  There’s also the Sikh turban, the hijab.  Even the way we tie it or the meaning is different, what I like about the turban is that it makes you look so different.

 

 

The turban means a great deal to many different peoples around the world, but what does it mean to you?  What do you think it means or symbolises to women across Africa?

 

Some African women wear the turban just to hide their hair during “bad hair days.”  In Africa, you cover your head when you become a woman, when you are married.  It’s not good for a married woman to show her head.  The turban is not tied as the hijab, but it’s quite the same. It’s not mandatory, but in our tradition women never go out without covering their head, or cover their hair when they are in presence of men who are not their husband or family.

 

I started tying the turban when I was a kid to look like my mum, to look chic and classy like her. Wearing a turban makes you look so different.   It makes you look so majestic; it makes you carry your head with pride. It made my mum look like a Queen, so it was really fun for me to look like her.

 

Aïssata's beautiful mother

Aïssata's beautiful mother

 

 

Tell us about the first time you wore a moüssor?  What colour was it?  How did you tie it? How did it make you feel?

 

The first time I wore a moussör, I was something like 5 or 6 and I wanted to look like a big girl, like my mum and aunts to celebrate Eid al-Fitr (the feast of breaking Ramadan).  Seeing them in front of the mirror trying to have a perfect moussör tie, it was magic. I asked my mom to tie it for me, and I loooooved it.  It’s funny because in made me look so different, I felt so unique. I felt so beautiful with it. I’m a tiara lover, and the turban was another way to wear the crown and look like a princess.

 

 

I noticed that you’ve included hijabs and other forms of headscarves – what do these represent for you? These are highly politicized in France, where you live – were you interested in being as inclusive as possible around head scarves?

 

Yes, because for me covering your head for style or for religious purpose is not the real concern.  I focus on style; it makes you look different in a good way.  What I don’t understand is when a girl wears a hijab, it disturbs people, but when you wear it as turban or a fashion style, nobody say a word…why?

 

Here in France, problems with the hijab started in 1989 – we call it “l’affaire du foulard“. The hijab is highly politicized because people think hijab means Islamist, terrorist, danger, abuses… When they see the hijab, they think that women are not free when they wear it. I have many friends who wear the hijab, they are beautiful, intelligent, and free, they have dreams, and they have skills, so why do politicians want to decide for them? Women are free to show their skin, why can’t they be free to cover their head?

 

I’m a Muslim too, but I don’t wear the hijab.  It doesn’t make me less Muslim than any other girl.  People should be free to practice their religion, to dress the way they want. It’s 2013; we all have friends, neighbors, colleagues from different cultures, religion… why can’t we live all together the way we are, the way we want, with respect?

 

 

Courtesy of Turbanista.com from Paris France

Courtesy of Turbanista.com

 

How do you find your material?

 

Most of the time it’s wax pieces, or you can you silk scarf, or even pashmina to tie the turban, it depend on the final look you want. Most of the time it’s from Senegal, when I go to my tailor in Dakar and have some dress and other cloths made, I always keep the scraps of fabrics to use them as turban.

 

 

What have you learned by curating this blog?  What surprised you the most?

 

I was so surprised to see how many people love the turban, it was so touching.  I quickly received e-mails from readers who wanted to know how to tie it correctly, where to buy pre-made turbans, and some African-American women asked me if it was ok to wear a turban even if they were not from Africa. Of course yes!!!

 

Many people are reposting and liking photo of beautiful and stylish girls with hijab, and some readers sent me messages saying that they had never looked at the hijab as fashion piece too! One girl sent me a message to say thank you, because when she decided to wear the hijab, her non-Muslim friend supported her by wearing turbans, to support her and show that covering your head is not such a big deal, so scandalous and dangerous as people think. It made me cry.

 

But I also received messages of people saying that they felt offended to see White people wearing the turban, most of the time it was from people of the Sikh community.  They say that it’s hard for them in their daily life because they have to struggle to wear it – they are judge and mocked, and seeing White people wearing it for fashion is not ok for them.

 

I can understand.  It’s a sad thing in our world is that something symbolic, or with religion or traditional meanings become trendy and stylish only when Western fashion decides it.

 

Mode Jeneil Williams by Julia Noni for Turbanista.com

Mode Jeneil Williams by Julia Noni for Turbanista.com

 

 

What has been the reaction been from the online fashion community?

 

People love to see Turbanista photos, it’s always cool, fun etc. But in France, I think that if you wear it outside it’s still something “African,” or “Roots,” and it’s still rare to see people wearing it.

 

I’m happy because many Turbanista lovers and designers share my blog, ask me to use it as an example when they do exhibitions or turban workshops. Most of my readers are from the US, Canada and the UK, I’m not surprised.

 

There are some fashion editorials with the turban in Vogue and other major fashion magazines, but they don’t really explain the origin of turban - it’s symbolic and they don’t really give credit to people who wear the turban every day, the real turbanistas. And most of the time they are worn by White models who don’t really represent the Turbanista Team (like I call us).

 

Some see the turban only as a piece of cloth, but it’s more for me: Turban is artistic, Turban is spiritual, Turban is majestic. Just try and tie a turban and you will see the difference, you will hold you head differently, you will style differently, even walk a different way, because it will make you feel like a real women, classy, chic, like a Queen.

 

 

Courtesy of Turbanista.com from Paris France

Courtesy of Turbanista.com

 

How do you juggle your work with Timodelle and your radio show in Québec, Canada?  Do you feel like you have a connection, from Dakar, to Paris, to Montreal?

 

Wow, not easy at all, but I love the busy life!  I wish I had time to do even more. I work on my own Webzine Timodelle Magazine, host a fashion show on CNRV Radio – a new radio based in Paris, a bridge between Quebec and France – and I’m launching a shoe brand with 3 friends.  I stop here because I do many other things, and people will think that it’s too much or crazy.

 

I do have a connection from Dakar to Paris, to Montreal, and to many other countries, thanks to Turbanista, Timodelle, and all the work I do. I’m so happy to see that people from all around the world are touched by my message, and are concerned by what I have to say and what I share.

 

I think that the one and only thing that enables me to gather all these different people, men and women, young and older, Muslims, Christians, Jews…. is LOVE! We share the same struggles, we love the same way – so to talk to people, just use your heart and they will understand the message. I share who I am, what touches me. The most important thing is to “do all things with Love”.

 

Love makes me create, make me gather people… And I put love in all the things I do.  I’m so touched and happy to read the email from Timodelle and Turbanista readers, they always thank me for the love, for the life that I put in my posts, messages… If I can make other people proud, happy or make them forget their loneliness, then Amen!

 

 

Photography courtesy of Turbanista.com

 

 

Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé is an aspiring writer, budding world traveler, and explorer of the ateliers of fashion artisans around the world. She tweets @Isabelle_BT and blogs at isabellebourgeault-tasse.tumblr.com.

 

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2 Responses to Feature: From Paris France, Q&A with Turbanista.com founder Aïssata Kamara

  1. […] Une autre belle rencontre, la journaliste Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé du magazine canadien Ramp1885, j’ai longtemps échangé avec elle sur la question du Turban, d’un point de vue religieux ou mode, ce fameux attaché de foulard fait débat. Une interview en anglais a retrouver sur le site http://www.ramp1885. […]

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