Wednesday, 16 October 2013


On today's "Wrapped in Style" African Textile we will be looking at Aso Oke. I mentioned it when I did the culture series on Yoruba

Aso-Oke also known as Aso-Ofi is a hand-woven Yoruba textile which means "clothes from country upland". Although the Aso-Oke fabric has a number of uses, it is reserved for special occasions such as marriages, naming ceremonies, burials, as well as for religious purposes.

The processes involved in the preparation and making of Aso-Oke are:
  • Planting of cotton
  • Spinning
  • Sorting
  • Patterning
  • Weaving
Types of Aso-Oke:
Although there are various types, colors, and patterns of Aso-Oke today, there are basically three major types, namely:
  • Etu: Bluish in color, used during chieftaincy and other important festivals
  • Sanyan: Grayish in color with a white stripe running through its middle. Considered to be the most expensive and father of fabrics.
  • Alaari: Red crimson Aso-Oke, used during formal and ceremonial events.

Uses of Aso-Oke:
In ancient times, Yoruba men use Aso-Oke as work dress on farms and also during traditional, social, and religious ceremonies. For men, the complete Aso-Oke combination includes sokoto (trousers), buba (top), fila (cap), and agbada (a large embroidered gown).
Yoruba women wear it as iro (wrapper), buba (blouse), gele (head wrap), and ipele (shawl). They also use Aso-Oke as a girdle (oja) to strap babies to their backs.
It is believed that giving the Aso-Oke fabric can be used to placate witches.

In Nigeria and Africa at large it is no news that we dress to match and dress to kill. The aso-ebi is one of such examples. Aso-Oke is also used as aso-ebi (memorial clothing). Aso-ebi is used to signify love and solidarity amongst the Yoruba people and Nigerian people during events and ceremonies. A certain color and material is chosen and people are expected to dress in that color or material. Aso-ebi brings out the beauty of Aso-Oke.

Religiously, it is believed that the Aso-Oke can be used to protect "abiku" (Abiku is a term in Yoruba land used to describe a spirit child with the ability to die and be reborn by the same mother). Ashes of Aso-Oke are combined with other magical substances in order to break the circle of death and rebirth of the child.
Also, the Aso-Oke fabric is used to decorate egungun (masked men that represent the spirit of living dead). Each year, a new piece of Aso-Oke is added to egungun.

In conclusion, as prestigious as the Aso-Oke may seem, it has suffered a decline in its use and production. This is because the youths are more tilted to foreign labels; the fabric is limited in design when compared with Ankara. Also the closure of many textile industries in 2007 during the Nigerian custom exercise is a major setback.
I hope you enjoyed this post.

References: Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, no.3, September, 2009.

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