Aso-Oke of Many Colors

My Aso-Oke of many colors a dear weaver made for me.

Aso-Oke or Aso ilu oke, uptown clothes, is a traditional attire worn mostly by the Yoruba tribe for special occasions.

Aso-Oke is usually woven by men to make wears for both male and female.

The men wear fila (cap), Buba (top or blouse), Sokoto (trouser pants) and agbada (a regal gown) while the women wear Buba (Blouse), Iro (wrapper), Gele (head tie) and Ikpele (Shoulder sash or shawl).

During my tour to Ilorin, Kwara State, I visited the Alara Weaving Center. A compound of young boys and men who makes the Aso-Oke trade for a living. There I witnessed how the Aso Oke is made.

The Alara Weaving Center, Ilorin, Kwara State

Back in the days, Aso-Oke was used to show affluence, it’s still prevailing till date.

Aso-Oke represents the status of a person.

Types of Aso-Oke

There are three main types of Aso- Oke

  1. Etu (fowl), with blue and white stripes in the warp direction with a light blue checkerboard and a pattern weave structure. In the ancient times, Etu was used as an important social dress by chiefs and elders among the Yoruba. The strips are woven using local wild silk fiber. Etu is dyed repeatedly in traditional indigo blue dye, which is dried and stretched at intervals. 
  2. Alaari, crimson in color,  The use of Alaari is not limited to a particular ceremony but traditionally used for all events among the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. Alaari is traditionally woven with locally spurned silk yarns dyed in red camwood solution severally to achieve permanence in color fastness.
  3.  Sanyan,  also referred to as ‘Baba-Aso’, the ‘father of fabrics’ is traditionally produced from fibers made from the cocoons of the anaple silk warm. It is the most expensive Yoruba hand-woven fabric, grayish in color with a white strip running through the middle. The silk fibers are hand-spun into silk threads, washed and soaked in corn-starch to strengthen the yarn for fabric production in the ancient times.

The Process of Making Aso-Oke

  1. Cotton Planting: Cotton are planted usually during the rainy season between the month of June and July and harvested between November and February. The harvested cotton proceeds for spinning
  2. Spinning: This is the process of separating the cotton seed from the wool using a Spindler,(Orun in Yoruba), a bow-like instrument. The wool is spread and rolled on the loom  (the loom is a handmade wood used in weaving; this loom is usually made by local carpenters). The Spindler would be turned, and while it is being turned, it will start rotating thereby thinning the cotton. This is done on a continuous basis till all the wool has been spun.
  3. Sorting: This is where they sort the wool off the dirt.
  4. Patterning: This is where they apply patterns and designs while weaving the Aso-Oke.  The material used in cloth patterning includes the following:-Akata (propeller)- Iye (long wheel)- Akawo (shortwheel)
    – Gowu and kikgun (rollers)
    – Aasa (strikers)
    – Omu (extender) this is used in holding the reels
    – Sanrin (metallic peg)
    During patterning, the cotton reels are hanged upon the hangers on the sets of the metallic pegs on the ground. The reason for this is to make the cotton into bundles.

    Aso-Oke in the Loom

  5. WeavingThe rolled cotton will be neatly inserted into the striker through the extenders. The weaver will tie Iro (filler) on his seat. There are two or more holes on the staff in which a small peg is tagged. On the upper hand of the Omu (Extenders), there is Okeke (Wheel or Axle) for pulling the Omu up and down. There are two step pedals under the extenders (Omu), which the weaver presses down interchangeably during weaving. The pedal when pressed enables the cotton to open and the reeler put through to one side while the Striker knocks the reel to and fro to another side. This Striker allows the reel to be finely set interchangeably. The weaver handles the Oko (Motor), throws it inside the open cotton to be received by his other hand, movement of the Motor continues and faster as if the weaver is not touching it at all. The reel inside the motor will start giving a peculiar sound.
    Sakala – si – sakala – sa
    Sakala – si – sakala – sa

A young weaver producing Aso-Oke

As the weaver continues this way, the cloth is weaved and gradually extends forward. The weaver uses the drawer to pull the cloth towards himself and the carrier obeys the force and moves towards him while weaving continues.

 

My Aso-Oke of many colors, that a dear weaver made for me.

Abdul, the youngest weaver in Alara Weaving Center, Ilorin, Kwara State.

 

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