You visit any Nigerian wedding party, and you see the ladies clad in colorful, elegant hand-loomed head ties and wrappers, and the men in Agbada (gowns) and fila (hats) made with the same fabric, and you wonder in amazement at the dexterity wrought by the hands that crafted these fabrics. The fabrics are popularly known as Așǫ oke (pronounced ah-SHAW-okay), and they are woven by the Yoruba people of south west Nigeria.
We had gone hiking up the enchanting Oke-Ado Mountains of Ado Awaye all morning, and the sun was still high, gliding across the skies and bathing our sweaty skins with its searing heat. We had seen the tiny patch of shiny roofs of Iseyin town from the summits of Ado-Awaye mountain, punctuating the distant skyline; and though we were burnt out from the climbing, we thought it would be a good idea to dash down to the ancient town of Iseyin where the legendary aso-oke weavers dwelt, before returning to Lagos.
Iseyin is twenty minutes drive from Ado-Awaye town, in Oyo State, Southwest Nigeria. The road connecting the two towns sweeps and snakes through a swarm of steep-sided and rounded-topped inselbergs dotting the landscape. The town welcomed us with its bustling central market; food sellers lined the roadsides, displaying heaps and piles of fresh food produce which they had brought down from the surrounding farms. We stopped an okada rider, asked him to take us to the compound of any of the aso-oke weavers in the town and we followed his lead. There were a few weavers at the compound he took us to. He told us that most of the weavers had gone to the big cities for the weekend, to sell the clothes they made in the previous week. We greeted the weavers and sat with them, watching them craft the popular fabrics that turn heads at our parties. The few young men at the loom were descendants of one of the numerous family of weavers in the town. Some kids sat and played around the weavers. They are the children of some of the weavers, and they will also grow to learn the vocation. The thirty or so minutes we spent with them was amazing, refreshing us with raw knowledge about the weaving techniques used in producing the aso-oke fabric. We enjoyed every minute of our stay. Here are a few photos from our visit:
From the summits of Oke Ado Mountain, Iseyin town appears as a patch of shinny roofs, sitting at the center of the skyline with a part of the town tilting upwards at it leans on a hill side… and the road leading to the town bounces and leaps northwards.
– Iseyin town, Oyo State.
– On our way to the compound of the weavers.
– The weavers sit all day under the tree, looming long panels of hand-spun colored cotton threads into wooden frames and working them into fabrics.
– The weavers smiled all through our stay, cracking jokes as they labored at their vocation. They are happy people and they enjoyed what they did; to them, their job is a great one!
– Aso oke in the making…
– Some kids sat and played around the weavers. They are the children of some of the weavers, and they will also grow to learn the vocation of their ancestors.
– One of kids sitting around the weavers. He will also grow up to learn the trade of his ancestors. He is happy already; and will be happier when he starts making a fortune from the family business.
– She asks how much the finished blue aso-oke costs…. “Do you want to buy right away? we don’t normally sell pieces of the fabric here o”, the weaver replied. They normally sell the fabric in bundles to the market retailers in big cities who sell smaller pieces to buyers.
– The working of the fingers of an expert aso-oke weaver.
…and the weaver’s feet does the bidding of the weaver’s creative mind as he works the threads, controlling the wooden loom with his feet and hands.
Sometimes, the threads tangle up, and one of the assistants quickly goes out to straighten them up…
– A completed sample of Aso Oke.
– Aso Oke seller (Photo Credit: zenithasooke)
This article was written by Folarin Kolawole
Founder of Naijatreks, Nigerian-born Folarin Kolawole is a geologist, travel writer and researcher. When not at work, he travels the length and breadth of Nigeria, exploring, taking photos and writing about her numerous hidden tourist potentials. 'Naijatreks' is a product name registered under the Ntreks brand, which is also duly registered by Nigeria's Federal Corporate Affairs Commission. The contents on this blog are re-usable. However, it must be ensured that it is linked back to this blog, and correctly attributed to Naijatreks or the author. Please do not edit, rewrite or commercialize the original works on this blog without direct and written permission from the Founder (Folarin Kolawole). For inquiries and advert placement on the blog, kindly contact us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.