Fashion cannot be separated from our daily lives; even those who refuse to follow fashion, it is argued, do so in order not to partake in trends. After independence in 1960, Nigerians witnessed great flood of imported fabrics and clothes mostly from Holland but today, we see Nigerian Made fabrics deliberately replacing them. Clothes they say, means nothing until someone lives in them. Nigerians take pride in wearing their traditional attires not because it comes cheap but because it is nicely made from the best of equipment and is of international standard.
Today, aside the indigenous Nigerian textiles which include Adire, Akwete, Ukara, A’nger, Aso oke and Akwa Ocha, Nigerians put on a range of other clothes mostly made from Lace, Jacquard and Ankara among other materials. As clothing and fashion are undergoing several transformations in the early modern world, some attires known by specific people have gone far above the rest influencing their sense of dressing. Among them is the Nigerian cloth styles. Lets see some of the indigenous Nigerian clothing that ever existed.
Adire ( Tie and Dye)
Adire is the traditional cloth Nigerians use for clothing. It is is an indigo dyed cloth that is made by the Yoruba women of South-Western Nigeria using a variety of resist-dye techniques. Àdìre translates as tie and dye, and the earliest cloths were probably simple tied designs or locally-woven, hand-spun cotton cloth much like those still produced in Mali. In the early decades of the twentieth century however, the new access to large quantities of imported shirt materials made possible by the spread of European textile merchants in certain Yoruba towns, notably Abeokuta(in Ogun State, Nigeria), enabled women dyers to become both artists and entrepreneurs in a booming new medium. The cloth’s basic shape became that of two pieces of shirt material stitched together to create a women’s wrapper cloth. With the Adire, you can make beautiful wears that can suit any occasion you have in mind.
Apart from agriculture, the production of the traditional hand-woven fabric called aso-oke, is another major occupation of the people in Yoruba land, Southwestern Nigeria. The ancient towns of Iseyin and Okeho, in Oyo State and Osogbo and Ede in Osun State are known and praised for the fine quality of these hand-woven cloths that are always sought after. Production of the traditional cloth involves relatively more complex processes such as the preparation of yarn from cotton plant materials, the dyeing of the yarn into required colourful threads, the acquisition of highly-technical skills for cloths weaving and the fabrication of tools and equipment such as looms, motor, spreaders, rollers and peddlers used by the entrepreneurs to produce the cloth.
But today, with the high demand of the textile, several kinds of materials have been added in producing the cloths, namely; silk, rayon, sewing threads and recently, metallic yarn. The surge in the participation of people in the production and selling of indigenous textile (aso-oke) suggests that the industry is making some contributions to the improvement of the lives of the people. Aso Oke today is not only worn by in western Nigeria, but by almost all Nigerian ethnic groups especially on special occasions like Marriages, naming ceremony and lots more.
Because of its beautiful patterns and designs, most furniture industries also use it for decorative purposes. Aso Oke is made in such a way that it suites almost every one. For the Nigerian Men, Aso oke can be sewn into Agbada and cap or even a necktie (Straight and bow ties), while for the Ladies, it can go for wrappers and head tie.
Akwete cloth is one of the numerous Nigerian Clothing styles in Nigeria. It is a unique hand-woven textile produced in Igboland for which the town of Akwete in Ukwa Local Government Area of Abia State is famous. Though this textile is nearly going extinct, it is generally regarded as the traditional vocation of the people. The hand crafted cloth is called “Akuru” (something woven) and before its development, the Akwete was woven only as “Akwa mmiri” meaning Towel. This traditional Igbo weaving is usually worn during traditional events such as marriages, chieftain ceremonies, burials and all other forms of cultural outings. In spite of the above fact, the production of Akwete fabric has remained at the traditional level and as a result, seen as the handiwork of artisans and the aged in the area.
Ukara ekpe’ as it is called, is a woven material which is usually dyed blue (but also green and red). The cloth is used by Ekpe groups in South East Nigeria, or the Leopard Society, which are often termed as secret societies. Ukara ekpe cloths are woven in Abakaliki, and then they are designed by male nsibidi artists in the Igbo-speaking towns of Abiriba, Arochukwu and Ohafia to be worn by members of the Ekpe society. Members commission fabric which incorporates signs of the leopard and various motifs from the Nsibidi ideographic alphabet (a system of symbols indigenous to the southeast). The designs are then embroidered using raffia onto white cloth, and then dyed with indigo.
The Tiv A’nger
Although, its definite emergence could not be ascertained, history however shows that the traditional fabrics, which boldly distinguishes the majority ethnic tribe in Benue from another people dates back to more than a century ago. The A’nger is a black and white fabric woven with white and black yarn to make the cloth appear like a Zebra skin. The A’nger is said to signify the typical nature of the Tiv people who believe that the power of good and evil is within a man’s heart. To them, life is either good or evil, Yes or No, Left or Right, Black or white. In a nutshell, the fabric represent Tiv’s belief in honesty and sincerity, clearly taking a stand on issues. It is usually a beauty to behold when the men traditionally dress in flowing wrappers neatly tied across their shoulders under a pair of trousers with a cap adjusted to fit; a spear in one hand and a horse tail in the other to complement the women who simply clad themselves with the wrapper, blouse and headgear to match.
The Akwa Ocha
The “Akwa Ocha” which means white cloth is a hand woven cloth that is predominantly white and patterned with simple but sometimes complicated designs. It’s production has been a very ancient traditional vocation passed down from one generation to another among the Aniocha and Oshimili people of Delta State. This traditional fabric is produced in a vertical loom constructed with wooden materials. The loom basically has two main parts called Nsu and Nkporkor. The plain white without any design is used mostly for funerals by some social groups in Onitsha but with lots of improvement made to it, the introduction of some motifs and colored yarns are added to the plain white.
No doubt as technology changes the way we live our day-to-day lives, fashion in its own way is becoming more dispersed, spreading and blending perfectly to human culture. Today, in Nigeria like in other communities, we see lots of foreign clothing blending graciously into our culture and indigenous dress styles. Clothes like Danshiki, Kaftan Lace and the popular Ankara which were not identified with Nigerian Clothing, are now part of the daily Nigerian dressing. But that notwithstanding, the Nigerian clothing made mostly from Nigerian fabrics have come to stay and they are becoming the people’s favorite and no body wants to dress out of tune. Today, we see folks sticking to fabrics made in Nigeria while the imported ones are supplemented in rare cases.