Yoruba family status and memory through Aso-oke and Adire cloth
(Royal College of Art)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the phenomenon of textiles as historical repositories among the Yoruba people of West Africa. Antique and contemporary Aso-oke and Adire fabrics will be used to demonstrate how these operate.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the phenomenon of textiles as historical repositories among the Yoruba people of West Africa. The more a "prestige" textile depreciates in physicality, the more it appreciates in status and value. Based on recent ethnographic fieldwork in Nigeria and twenty-five years practice as a textile designer and collector, this research brings together a number of concepts related to the history-holding attributes of Aso-oke and Adire fabrics, two of the most important carriers of narrative and memory. Textile knowledge is fundamental to Yoruba and complex language and specific expertise has been developed to describe and categorize it. Way beyond simple decoration, traditional textiles convey messages and code by pattern, weave, thread, even the weaver and circumstances of usage. All these bear witness to a narrative passed down through generations, even appearing in the family Oriki (a potted family history / ancestral praise song of their 'big-ups', achievements recited by certain members). Anthropologists of Aso-oke and Adire Yoruba textiles; Clarke, D ( 1997), Asakitipi, O., (2007), Olaoye,.R. A, (2005), concentrate primarily on physicalities of fabric or on textual socio-historical information. Their writings focus less on the meaning, significance and importance in the cross-generational story. Underpinned by a combination of sensory ethnography, material culture observation and reflexive practice, this paper identifies textile knowledge and textiles as a key carrier of the Yoruba life-world from the past to the future and across the Nigerian diaspora. Examples of antique and contemporary Aso-oke and Adire will be used to demonstrate how these operate.
The endurance of the ephemeral