I have worn a turban, or as we say back home in Trinidad, a headwrap, almost everyday for nearly two decades. Normally it is piled atop my head and fashioned from an old, American Apparel heather grey jersey-material scarf; a bit of my dreadlocks can occasionally be seen from the top, as in this Instagram post.
More than the dreadlocks tied up below, the actual turban can become such a charged thing, depending on which cultural space I am pervading.
In Trinidad, people often assume that I am a kind of modernist Boboshanti Rastafarian - somewhat penitent, not too extremist or militant, but not altogether liberal either. Others proclaim that I am a Shouter Baptist, when what they really think is that I am 'Obeah woman', always two steps away from shaking a calabash gourd filled with the bones of some creature and damning the spirit of unsuspecting folk. An extremely ridiculous characterization, if ever their was one.
When I lived in Manhattan, everyone immediately thought I was an incense burning, weed smoking, beaded chain wearing hippie, straight out of a trite, 70s Americana stereotype. Moving down south to North Carolina with my headwraps, however, was another story punctuated with blank stares, suspicious eyeballing, and an unending barrage of questioning about my Mosque, or if I was planning on returning to my 'homeland' for prayer this year... You get the drift.
Now that I live in London, old Nigerian, Senegalese, and Ghanian grannies come to me speaking in their mother tongue, asking for directions or just to chit-chat on the bus. From the choice of the material to the way I wrap the cloth, they can tell I am not from continental Africa, but they nonetheless sense a kindred spirit. Elsewhere in the city, turbaned Sikhs exchange knowing, complimentary looks with me as we go about our affairs. In the London space, we all clearly stand out with our wraps, but, at least for now, there is a space for each of us and the way we dress.
Amsterdam, one of the other places I currently call home, is perhaps the only city I frequent where absolutely no one pays attention to my headwrap. (I suspect the Dutch either haven't noticed it, or if they did, they couldn't care less.) Which is why I chose to photograph these versions of commonly seen turbans/head wraps in casual fashion, on the interior steps of a typical Amsterdam huis for Au Courant Vol. 02.
I chose not to photograph the series on myself; I wanted to juxtapose that Dutch nonchalance against the coded wraps. Partly to see if a turban could become something as throwaway and as casual as a pair of blue jeans, and partly to play upon the otherness of styling headwraps within a culture not strictly known for using such an adornment. But mainly, I wanted to have a bit of fun.
See a selection of the images from the story below, and find the feature within Au Courant Vol. 02.
I have just a handful of copies left.
Words & Images | Lisa-Marie Harris
Outtakes from Au Courant Vol. 02
Released Oct/Nov 2016