Aso-oke: In The Beginning

 The African textile/fabric industry is huge.

 

(Credit: PNG Wing)

It has stood the test of time, remaining in high demand, a very evident reminder of our history and roots, and a colourful heritage that puts on display the authenticity that fashion should always represent.

But where did it all begin?

According to our history books, Africans were not very keen on wearing clothes, not until 2000 BC.

By 5000 BC, the ancient Egyptians had started to weave linen. Today, different parts of Africa have textiles that are peculiar to them.

In the western part of Nigeria (known as Yorubaland), Aso-oke is one of the oldest textiles, recognized as the traditional wear for special occasions, whether social, cultural or religious events — from community gatherings, to town meetings, cultural festivals, burials, traditional wedding ceremonies and all sorts of celebrations — the people of Yorubaland have always adorned themselves with this textile and all the glamour it brings.

 

(Credit: Design Indaba)

 

Aso-oke dates as far back as the 15th century, and is known for being woven by hand from cotton (a truly time-consuming task, and worth every dime paid).

It’s also considered a very prestigious textile (in English language, Aso-oke means “top cloth/up-country cloth”).

Aso-oke tells a story of timeless fashion if you listen closely.

From patterning to weaving, there’s a certain level of precision required from a weaver.

Aso-oke speaks of art, and true artisans in this business must perfect their craft to bring to life the perfect cloth, creating a very regal textile after hours of dedicated hard work.

There’s everyone’s favourite — the Iro & Buba (wrapper and top), and there’s Ipele (shawl), Gele (head-gear), Agbada (male robe), Dansiki (shirt) and Fila (cap).

Our forefathers and mothers loved them, and took pride in wearing them.

The thickness, durability and long-lasting qualities of this textile also contributes to making it a valuable piece, and our parents passed them down lineages, from grandmothers to daughters.

Asooke might be a very traditional textile, but it’s also made a modern comeback that’s hard to miss.

 

(Credit: Sagan Vienna)

 

 

Asooke has always been, and will remain a deep-rooted part of the Yoruba heritage, and today, with the most brilliant designers and modern-day stylists who’ve taken it upon themselves to preserve fashion that’s true to Africans, this heritage will continually be shared with the rest of Nigeria, the rest of Africa, and the rest of the world, textile by textile.