By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

Nigeria; Yoruba peoples

Eleya (cloth)


H. 198.12 cm (78 in)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, Given in loving memory of Mary Hagihara Kujawski Roberts by Seth, Avery and Allen F. Roberts, 1991.203 

Yoruba weavers may demonstrate their skill by creating aso eleya (cloth with holes woven into it). The time-consuming technique requires that the weaver gather together groups of threads at set intervals, weaving them together while creating precisely the proper tension to produce identical holes. Thus, richly patterned cloth is created using thread of a single color. This technical feat augments the value of the cloth, thereby according its wearer high status. Imitations of aso eleya can be made using less complicated methods, such as simply punching holes in the cloth after it has been woven, though these cloths do not have the high status of aso eleya. Recent versions of aso eleya are made using shiny synthetic threads such as lurex. These cloths are called “air con”—like an air conditioner, the holes in the cloth cool the body.