Weaving in Southern Nigeria

by Lisa Aronson
Skidmore College

Nigeria; Yoruba (Ife) peoples

Oni figure

Brass

H. 47.1 cm (18 9/16")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 79.R.12

Photo by Dirk Bakker

 

Woven textiles are the very fabric of Nigerian history and culture. Archaeological remains of woven bark fragments from the 9th century A.D. archaeological site at Igbo Ukwu provides evidence of the earliest known weaving in Nigeria, although the specific nature and use of these textiles is not known. Two centuries later, cast bronze figures from the ancient Yoruba site at Ife (12-15th Century A.D.) show royalty wearing cloth wrappers that may well have been woven on upright frame looms similar to the type Yoruba women weavers use today. Such is an example of the way textiles figure, and have figured, prominently in the political as well as religious, social, and economic lives of Nigerian people. Moreover, as highly portable mediums, such cloths are able to travel over great distances, providing threads of contact and the dissemination of designs for others to decipher.