A look into Africa: Nigeria

by Zinam Klaas & Amahle Shibe

Vintage street style. Ibadan, Nigeria. 1960 and (@nationalclothing.org) Yoruba men in national clothing (nigeriannostalgia.tumblr.com)
Vintage street style. Ibadan, Nigeria. 1960 and (@nationalclothing.org) Yoruba men in national cloth (nigeriannostalgia.tumblr.com)

Nigeria is divided into many ethnic groups, also called tribes, individually having their own uniqueness. Each tribe is divided based on their beliefs and/or how influential they are to the country. There are 3 major tribes in Nigeria which are the Hausa-Fulani tribe, Igbo tribe and Yoruba tribe. Each having their own distinct clothing.

Yoruba People, image sourced from buzznigeria.com

Yoruba is a tribe famous for their terra cotta works and also making goods out of bronze. It was once one of the biggest tribes in Nigeria but was then overshadowed by the Hausa- Fulani tribe. The Yoruba tribe is big on clothing and how different types of clothing should be worn. The attires differ for every occasion that one attends.

A persons social status is shown through the clothing worn by men. There are many different clothing materials but the most common material is Aso-Oke and there are 3 major materials that follow in its footsteps called Alaari, Sanyan and Ebu.

The 'behind every great man' photoshoot, image sourced from @agbada

Men have a unique sense of style that is very different from the modern attire for men. Their attire includes, Buba, Esiki, Sapara and Ewu Awotele also known as underwear/underclothes.

There is also overwear clothing called Dandogo, Agbada, Gbariya, Sulia and Oyala also known as Ewu Awalele, Awosoke. Overwear clothing is sewn alongside various types of Sokoto/Native trousers. Those Sokoto(s) include Kembe, which are 3 quarter baggy pants, Gbaanu Sooro, a long slim/streamlined pants and a Kaamu & Sokoto.

Menswear is considered incomplete without the Fila, also known as the cap. There are different types of Filas which include Gabi, a cylindrical cap, a Tinko, abeti-Aja, which is a crest-like shaped cap and Alagbaa, Oribi, Bentigoo, Onide and Labankada which are bigger versions of Tinko.

(travelthroughtheworldofenglish.blogspot.com) Yoruba people and Pre-Independence Yoruba women (nairaland.com)
(travelthroughtheworldofenglish.blogspot.com) Yoruba people and Pre-Independence Yoruba women (nairaland.com)

Now for the women's wear. The dress code and structure differ because they have two different types of underwear which include Tobi and Sinmi. Tobi is a modern-day apron with strings and spaces. Sinmi is a sleeveless t-shirt worn underneath. The underclothes are then accompanied by a Buba, a blouse like top and an Iro which is a wrapper.

The outfit is never complete without the Gele, which is a head tie. They also have an Iborum also known as a shawl and an Ibele, a long piece of material that hangs on the shoulder or can be tied around the waist.

Their accessories include the Ileke, known as a hand lace, Egba orun known as a necklace, Egba ese known as an anklet and the Egba owo known as a bangle. These accessories can be worn by both men or women.

Image sourced from legit.ng and pictures Igbo people

A South-Eastern Nigerian tribe, smaller than the Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani tribe but one of the oldest tribes in Nigeria. The Igbo tribe consists of very little clothing and its purpose is to simply cover private parts. Children did not have to wear any clothing until their adolescence but were allowed to wear beads for spiritual reasons.

Uli is body art, which consists of lines and patterns, used to decorate men and women. Isiagu, also known as chieftaincy, is a pullover shirt similar to a dashiki worn by men usually on special occasions. It can either be long-sleeved or short-sleeved, some have golden buttons linked to a chain and they usually have a breast pocket. This is worn with a red Fez hat or an Okpu Agu.

Women have less clothing, with the beads, called the Jigida and neckless making most of their outfit. Traditionally they wear a strip of clothing when carrying a baby and bind the 2 with a knot.

Tops for them are optional for daily wear and they also wear short wrappers, the cloth on the head differs from the one on the body. For special occasions they wear a huge ivory bracelet that is for the bride, fine jewelry and an Ogobo which is a waistcloth.

Colonization influenced the way people dressed, so clothes worn before colonization became traditional clothes only worn on cultural occasions. Morden clothes for women are now puffed sleeved blouses along with 2 wrappers and a head tie.

(tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com) Hausa people and Your hair guide to Hausa hairstyles (jiji-blog.com)

The Hausa-Fulani tribe is the biggest tribe in Nigeria because it consists of  2 tribes, which are the Hausa people and the Fulani people. These 2 tribes do not share the same style of clothing.

Starting with the Hausa people, they are notorious for their cloth weaving and dyeing, cotton goods, leather sandals, metals, rocks, horse equipment and leatherworking. They are nicknamed "blue men" because of their indigo blue dressing and emblems. They have tie-dyed clothing that is richly embroidered in traditional patterns. These patterns became an inspiration to the "hippie" garments.

The traditional attire for men consists of a Babban rigo. The Babban rigo consists of 3 pieces, the trousers called Sokoto which are loose at the top. At the center, it becomes tight on the legs and its accompanied with a long-sleeved, wide top and an open stitched sleeveless gown. This gown is wide open on both sides ventilation.

On the neck and chest, the garments have cotton and embroidery in traditional patterns and they finish it off with embroidered Hula caps. Women wear Zani, a wrapper made with Atampa/Ankara, a colourful cloth and is matched with a matching blouse, Kallabi, a hand-tie and a Gyale which is the famous shawl. Also including the wrap-around robe called Abaya.

(dailymail.com) The world’s most endangered tribes and The most stylish tribes/ethnicities of the world (notanotherfashionblog.wordpress.com)

Fulani people do not have one traditional style. They have different regions and those regions have their own preferred style. There is the Nigerian Fulani dressing, Guinean Fulani dressing and Fulani dressing in Western Africa.

Nigerian Fulani dressing women decorate their head-dresses using accessories such as beads and bracelets inspired by their family tradition. Men wear fancy hats with colourful insects. Guinean Fulani women decorate their arms and legs using a characterised ornament made of henna. The patterns have a meaning related to the tribe's history.

Men wear hats that have no particular patterns just very multi-coloured designs and patterns. Western African Fulani women wear long dresses that are decorated with floral patterns and ornaments accessorising it with neckless and bracelets. Men wear long white gowns and special hats that protect them from the excessive sunlight. Sometimes they wear leather so they are protected from the harsh winds and sand. 

African fashion designers have always been known to use bright, luminous colours, textures and shapes. By taking inspiration from their African heritage they infuse their traditions and customs alongside western influences to create works of cultural art that have shaped Africa’s fashion scene. This is evident in how Nigerian clothing is constructed.

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