Weaving in Southern Nigeria

by Lisa Aronson
Skidmore College

Ijebu woman weaving at Itagbe, Yoruba peoples, Nigeria. Photo by Lisa Aronson.

 

Using such a loom, Yoruba women from the Ijebu region of Nigeria weave a type of cloth that for centuries has served as emblems of status in Ijebu Yoruba society. By the early nineteenth-century, Ijebu cloths of this type, bearing intricate weft-float designs, were being traded across the Niger Delta and into the hands of Eastern Ijo peoples who then assimilated them within their own local culture. In turn, Eastern Ijo people introduced Ijebu and other cherished imported cloth designs to women weavers in the Igbo village of Akwete just fifty miles to their north. As a result, Akwete Igbo weavers have come to appropriate a wide range of foreign-introduced patterns, including those from the Ijebu Yoruba area. What follows is a more detailed account of this complex instance of diffusion involving textiles and trade in southern Nigeria.