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When Did the Tignon Law End

“The headscarf has been part of my personal style for more than a decade,” says Texas multidisciplinary artist Chesley Antoinette, whose 2018 exhibition “Tignon” reinterpreted the scarf`s evolving legacy. Antoinette created dozens of tignons (or “turbans” as she calls them) both for the exhibition and as features of her stylized photo series. A tignon (pronounced like tiyon) is a large piece of cloth wrapped around the head to keep hair out of sight. It is a type of headgear, such as a turban, that has notable similarities to West African frost. Creole women (women of color) of African descent in Louisiana wore tignons during the Spanish colonial period and still exist today, albeit to a lesser extent. The health of enslaved peoples, regardless of their ethnic differences, was essential for profitable work outcomes. When you give advice to those who bought slaves, he warns against buying slaves with yaws or scurvy. He stressed that when buying newly arrived Africans, one should be able to identify yaws or Guinean virus, a condition that has left the skin “smooth as a mirror” and was not easily detected by European doctors. He also gave instructions on how to recognize scurvy, a condition that results from a lack of vitamin C and can lead to physical weakness, spongy and inflamed gums, and anemia. Du Pratz admits that he learned to heal patients from a “black doctor.” These black women followed the law by covering their hair but adorning their stems with bright and beautiful colors, jewelry and feathers. What she was supposed to suppress made her even more beautiful in the end. So beautiful that the European women of the colony did not even let us the things that were supposed to oppress us and began to copy and wear tignons too. In this portrait, we see the beauty and style of the Tignon on proud display.

The subject of the painting is Betsy, the free black governess of the artist François Fleischben. Historians do not know why the portrait was made. One theory is that Betsy commissioned this portrait. Another is that Francis admired her style and asked her to sit for him. In fact, an 1891 Louisiana Works Progress Administration document also states that the tignon “originated in the fashion of Martinique and Santo Domingo, from portraits of ancestors wearing Madras handkerchiefs.” That`s the thing about tignons and head wraps in general; They are part of a rich and complex conversation about black and brown identities and community building. Tignon`s laws were clear and racist police instruments, but the hair of the African diaspora is not inherently oppressive tools – on the contrary. In West and Southern Africa, for example, ties have long been available in fantastic variations for casual and formal occasions; Nigeria has frost, and Malawi and Ghana have Duku; South Africa and Namibia have innovated the Doek, while Botswana praises the Tukwi. Of course, we black women have turned parody into triumph because they are the resilient people we are. Soon, the Tignons became an important fashion statement and they adorned their scarves despite laws that were supposed to steal their creativity and culture.

The free black women of Louisiana were more than up to the challenge. Tignon was widely used in accordance with the law, but women used colorful and expensive fabrics and tied them with elaborate knots. They also decorated them with feathers and jewelry. Instead of being a signal of the inferiority of free black women, it became a sign of their beauty, wealth and creativity, a subtle rebellion against a colonial government that wanted to maintain them. The rise and fall of these laws marks one of the most important moments in America`s long history of surveillance and appropriation of the style of brown and black communities. The Creole women, always resilient, styled the Tignon with the same flair and decorated their Tignons with their jewelry and ribbons. Historian Carolyn Long notes that it becomes a form of protest and empowerment “rather than being seen as a badge of shame,” notes historian Carolyn Long, “the Tignon. has become a fashion statement.” It is believed that black women who got used to these Tignon laws also paved the way for the colorful and ornate hats that African-American women wear to church today. Even when Louisiana stopped enforcing laws in the early 1800s, free women of color continued to wear the Tignon. It is a testament to their resilience: the women of New Orleans refused to let a piece of cloth humiliate them, erase their status or diminish their femininity. Instead, they reinterpreted the tignon as a symbol of empowerment. (And black women in Louisiana weren`t the only women of color to use clothing to defy repressive laws: in 1773, free women of color in Santo Domingo were not allowed to wear shoes, so they wore sandals, decorated their toes with diamonds, and continued to do so even after the laws were repealed.) Regardless of their religious affiliation, urban and rural dwellers of African descent were feared when it came to the possibility of large Sunday gatherings.

People of color, or people of color, were known to dance in the Place des Negros or the Place du Congo. People of African descent, free and enslaved, gathered here to dance, socialize and network. This gathering was considered powerful because of the potential for planning riots and the belief that those gathering in Congo Square were practitioners of voodoo or voodoo and other non-Christian religions. These meetings were so threatening that Governor Miro banned slave assemblies in 1786. With ribbons, brooches, beads and the most luxurious fabrics, black women have found a way to make their culture and spirit prevail. Legally, nothing could be done against the cult of the Tignon, because they did not break the law because the law only applied to their hair. The effects of the Tignon laws are still visible today, as it is still common for black women to wear elaborate headscarves and headgear. The Creole women did not flinch. They wore the Tignon as required by law while remaining elegant. With the tignons made of various fancy fabrics adorned with jewelry and wrapped by different women with different sophistication, it became a fashion statement that always caught the attention of white men. In 1786, the territory of Louisiana was under Spanish rule by Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miró. God forbid, if a woman of African descent was accidentally treated with the same decency as a white woman, Miró enforced a law that required black women to identify themselves outwardly as a “slave class,” even though a large percentage of them were free.

This distinctive exterior feature was the tignon, a piece of cloth tied in a scarf. Black women should cover their hair completely so as not to show “excessive attention to clothing.” Frank Schneider`s portrait of Marie Laveau (painted in 1920 after an earlier work by George Catlin) hangs in the Cabildo at the Louisiana State Museum and shows the legendary “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans” with a butternut yellow scarf with burnt orange stripes. When Angela Bassett portrayed Laveau in American Horror Story: Coven, a headgear was also an integral part of her wardrobe. Coven was loosely based on real events, but Laveau`s headscarves were real — and her decision to wear them was deeply rooted in the so-called Tignon laws, which prohibited black women from showing their hair in public for nearly 20 years. Du Pratz not only gives us information about superstition; It also discusses the type of work done by many people of African descent in the region and the appropriate means to receive them. According to his observations, especially in the lower part of the region, people of African descent are engaged in agricultural work.