Jamaica Gleaner / Media personality and university lecturer Fae Ellington says Jamaicans may need to be re-educated on the significance of the national fabric, the bandanna, and the iconic Louise Bennett-Coverley, the woman responsible for its international fame.
Ellington was responding to recent statements made by dancehall artiste Ishawna, who literally ‘dissed’ both the national fabric by denoting it as a tablecloth, while comparing herself to ‘Miss Lou’.
“People my age group and those before me understand the significance of the bandanna; that it went through market women wearing it and being disparaged. Then Miss Lou, the late Olive Lewin, NDTC (National Dance Theatre Company) Singers, and other performers, took it from that place and dignified it, and took it internationally,” said Ellington, who owns several outfits made with bandanna.
“Maybe it is a time for the JCDC (Jamaica Cultural Development Commission), the Ministry of Culture and many others to explain why we should hold it as iconic as we do Miss Lou,” explained Ellington.
Renowned for her ‘Jamaicaness’, Ellington said she gets a feeling of pride about her country, her nation and her history when she wears bandanna.
“It distinguishes me as a Jamaican who feels proud about my Jamaicaness. It’s a beautiful fabric and it can be worn from casual right up to gown for formal occasions.”
She argues that Jamaicans overseas orders the fabric to make clothing/costumes for themselves, their children and grandchildren.
These styles would obviously get lost on Ishawna, whose risquÈ behaviour sees her wearing little or no clothes, as she makes her presence felt on social media.
As distasteful as the dancehall artiste finds the bandanna, many Caribbean nations have embraced the fabric and have used it for their national costumes.
Before the fabric was embraced by the world, on a Saturday morning, proud market women would display their wares beautifully clad in their well-starched bandanna outfits – skirts, blouses, aprons and “headkerchief” (head ties), says designer, dancer, poet and Jamaica’s first costume king, Weston Haughton.
“It is to be remembered as not just ‘some head tie the ole people use to wear’, but a highly appreciated piece of fabric that has stood the test of time and is here to stay,” he declared.
Reminiscing on the impressive group of local and international designers who have created quite impressive collections over the years from the fabric, Haughton named Jamaica’s doyen of fashion, Francis Keane as one who glamorised the national costume, using the bandanna in taffeta, highlighted with sequins and beads for the Miss Jamaica World Queens to the Miss World Pageant.
He said Montego Bay-based designer Andrea Lindo of Melanie’s Fashions, has been working with the bandanna fabric for many years, transforming it into uniforms for hotel groups and award-winning costumes, while Pat Wright made quite a hit with her bandanna casuals under the label ‘Wright Style’, which were worn by fashionistas of all ages.
“Veteran designer Ivy Ralph has received rave reviews for her outfits usually worn by her famous daughter, actress and singer Sheryl-Lee Ralph,” he said.
Originating from the Hindi word bandhana , the plaid originated in the 1800s and was inspired by the tartan patterns worn by Scottish regiments who occupied India. Vegetable dyes were used to create the kaleidoscope of colours on the fabric, but later as it became more sophisticated and sought after; new methods were derived to improve the quality.
The Honourable Louise Bennett-Coverley, the queen of Caribbean folk culture, is remembered for her bandanna costumes live on stage, on screen or in print.
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