Between the African history of Egyptians splendidly attired in flowing robes and some modern day African cultures which have either dispensed completely with wearing clothes or likely have never worn them, where did the Yoruba of old fall?
Yoruba culture has a textile history dating back as far as documented history of foreigners’ visits to Yorubaland exists. in other words, none of the accounts in history mention nakedness among the Yoruba as a norm. So, as far back as the 1400s at least, Yoruba have been manufacturing ( and wearing) indigenous fabric.
Here are 10 facts about Yoruba textiles:
- Kijipa is the earliest known indigenous Yoruba fabric
- Kijipa which had a rough texture, was made of raw hand spun cotton
- Kijipa was woven on indigenous narrow and wide looms
- Kijipa was beige in colour, which faded into white with regular washing, but it was sometimes dyed in indigo for practical and aesthetic purposes
- Kijipa was a work fabric for every day living worn by men and women alike
- Adire is indigo resist dyed cotton cloth that has been made by Yoruba women for generations
- Adire resist-dyeing involves creating a pattern by tying away designed parts of the fabric with raffia or coating with starch to prevent them absorbing dye.
- Adire was originally used to beautify Kijipa fabric, later imported cotton fabric was used
- Adire patterns were once a mode of story telling via fabrics
- Each authentic Adire pattern has a meaning , interpretation or proverb behind it
Question – As Kijipa faded into insignificance in the limelight of Adire , did it metamorphosise into Aso Oke? Or are they two very different fabrics? Samples of Kijipa have proven impossible to find so far. So there’s no way to compare. Is Kijipa now “extinct”?
Fortunately, Aso Oke and Adire are still easy to access and are available online via many retailers in many forms. Tote bags, hand bags, iPad covers, phone cases, shirts, wall art, framed art. As always the ever creative Yoruba spirit of innovation at work!