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Yoruba in Nigeria and Diaspora

Rowland Abiodun

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The Yoruba people number well over thirty million from about sixteen ancient kingdoms. They spread all over southwestern Nigeria and extend well into the neighboring countries of Benin and Togo. The Yoruba have been urbanized since the first millennium c.e. and are well known for their fine artistic achievements, especially the naturalistic life-size bronze heads and terra-cotta sculptures of Ile-Ife. In addition to being among the most accomplished carvers in wood and ivory in Africa, the Yoruba

Benin

Joseph C.E. Adande

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The Republic of Benin is bounded in the south by the Atlantic Ocean, in the north by Niger and Burkina Faso, in the east by Nigeria, and in the west by Togo. Thus, it naturally shares both history and culture with the peoples of these neighboring countries. In Benin, clothing, regardless of definition, is as complex and varied as its numerous linguistic groups. In the Benin Republic, Vodun adepts and masquerade performers dress primarily to please their gods and offer them the appropriate manifes

Togo

Agbenyega Adedze

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Although dress in Togo is similar to that of its neighbors in West Africa, it has distinctive features that make it unique in the region. It is quite common for citizens of neighboring countries like Benin, Burkina Faso, and Ghana to identify a Togolese national by his or her clothes even though similar styles of dress might be present in these countries. Like most regions of the world, environment affects clothing choices, especially evident in practices distinguishing the north and the south of

Burqini

Heather Marie Akou

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Global Perspectives 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The burqini is a full-body swimsuit that combines the terms burqa and bikini. Aheda Zanetti, an Australian designer of Lebanese descent, created the burqini in 2006 as an alternative form of dress for Muslim women serving as lifeguards in Australia. Within months it became available to the general public worldwide. Buyers have included both Muslims and non-Muslims, who wear it for reasons ranging from modesty, to protection from UV light, to enhanced athletic performance. Similar full-body swimsu

Lower Niger Delta Peoples and Diaspora

Martha G. Anderson and E. J. Alagoa

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The inhabitants of the Niger Delta speak dozens of languages and represent nine different language groups. Populations range in size from the Ijo, a diverse group of about two million who live in communities spread throughout the Delta, to the Defaka, who number only about two hundred and occupy a single village. Larger groups include the Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri, Ikwerre, Ekpeye, Ogoni, and Obolo (or Andoni). Most Delta groups have maintained their own languages and distinct identities, but they

Mali

Mary Jo Arnoldi

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Mali, in West Africa, is landlocked and borders seven countries. Although Mali has experienced rapid urbanization since the mid-twentieth century, the majority of Malians still live in rural communities. There are over fourteen ethnic groups in Mali. The basic everyday dress of cotton tunics, knee-length trousers, and caps for men, and wrappers and shawls for women remained popular in rural communities in south-central Mali well into the mid-twentieth century. Ethnic variations do exist but are m

West Africa

Lisa Aronson

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

West African markets are well known for their tightly packed displays of textiles in rich arrays of colors and patterns, and tailors on their sewing machines can be heard everywhere sewing visually striking garments that seldom go unnoticed when worn in public. So vital and richly varied are textiles in West Africa that even prominent contemporary artists such as El Anatsui from Ghana and Nigeria and Yinka Shonibare from Nigeria are inspired by them as powerful mediums for discourse on historical

Okpella

Jean M. Borgatti

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Okpella dress as known from the twentieth century includes both everyday wear and dress associated with ritual and festive events, notably clothing associated with men’s and women’s title taking. For men, this includes garments donned during age-group ceremonies, the preliminary event for all subsequent title taking, as well as the apron and feathered crown worn during the Oghalo ceremony, the completion of which admits them into the body of titled elders who, in the past, formed the ruling counc

Igbo in Nigeria and Diaspora

Herbert M. Cole

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

One of the largest populations of West African peoples at over twenty million, the Igbo have a history of dress and personal decoration lasting over one thousand years. The archaeological sites of Igbo Ukwu, dating from the ninth and tenth centuries c.e., begin this record in the heart of Igbo country, twenty-five miles (forty kilometers) east of the Niger River and about one hundred miles (one hundred sixty-one kilometers) north of the Atlantic Ocean. Although the documentation is largely blank

The Kingdom of Benin

Kathy Curnow

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The Kingdom of Benin, a historically important traditional state, is located in southern Nigeria just north of the Niger River Delta. For centuries, its Edo people have looked to Benin City as their cultural center. The seat of a hereditary kingship, it is also a university town and state capital. The oba, its semidivine monarch, still exerts considerable influence even though the modern nation has usurped most of his political privileges. About two hundred chiefs assist him and form the aristocr

The Nigerian Fashion Scene

LaRay Denzer

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Since the advent of daily newspapers in the late 1920s, the print media have been an important source of information on fashion and style, especially the Daily Times of Nigeria (founded 1926) and the West African Pilot (founded 1937). Both newspapers regularly featured women’s columns, often including photographs of contemporary European fashion, sometimes with pattern instructions for various styles. This was particularly useful for local dressmakers and tailors who sewed to order as well as for

Kalabari Peoples of Nigeria

Joanne B. Eicher

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The Kalabari Ijo have a long history as traders of cloth and apparel items in the Niger Delta. They traded with the world beyond their immediate boundaries of thirty-two islands found among mangrove swamps of the Niger River tributaries near the Atlantic Ocean. Their trading provided access to imported goods, particularly textiles, which they used and continue to use in creative ways. Rather than just borrow the textiles, they make them identifiable as uniquely Kalabari, a process that has been c

Cameroon

Christraud M. Geary

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Cameroon blends West and Central Africa, extending from the Atlantic Coast to Lake Chad, bordering on six countries. Dress and ways to manipulate the body vary widely among the population. Religion and history influenced choices to adopt, maintain, or discard forms of dress. Indigenous African religions with annual and life-cycle ceremonies, accompanied by masked rituals in some regions, demanded ritual dress and costumes. Throughout the nineteenth century, local materials were used in the produc

Guinea-Bissau

Walter Hawthorne and Clara Carvalho

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Guinea Bissau, northwest of Guinea and south of Senegal, is located on the Atlantic Coast. The region has long been home to dozens of relatively small-scale, politically decentralized societies, three of the largest of which are the Bijago, Manjaco, and Balanta. The Guinea Bissau region has witnessed the comings and goings of foreigners for many centuries, culminating in Portuguese colonization in the early twentieth century. The broad economic, political, and social changes that were forced upon

Sierra Leone

Frederick John Lamp

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Dress in Sierra Leone and the surrounding region differs according to whether it is worn in everyday life or on celebratory occasions and whether it is worn among special classes of people, such as chiefs, hunters, and various ethnocultural groups. Dress that has emerged from indigenous design is most distinctive, whether worn by adults or, in miniature version, by children. Sierra Leoneans also wear Western-style clothes. Traditionally, nudity was common.

Niger

Kristyne Loughran

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Niger is a vast landlocked West African country named after the river Niger. Ninety-five percent of the population in Niger is Islamic, and the remainder are Christians and animists. Clothing styles worn by men and women in the Republic of Niger are well suited to the country’s geography and climate, and to its religious beliefs. Young Nigerien boys wear shorts and shirts and start wearing trousers when they reach adulthood. Men from all groups dress in long trousers with a large matching shirt,

Liberia

Jane Martin

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Liberian dress and fashion in the twenty-first century is based on a heritage from indigenous African societies, from returned African Americans and their descendants, and from the mixed communities that developed throughout nearly two centuries. The dress codes of those who governed Liberia were derived from the southern United States. Western dress was the dress of choice. In the later twentieth century, lappa suits, boubous, and Vai shirts indicated the increased engagement of Liberia with oth

Senegal and Gambia

Hudita Nura Mustafa

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The location of Senegambia between the Sahara Desert, Atlantic Ocean, and West African savannas makes it a prime spot for cross-cultural exchange. The region consists of two nation-states—Senegal (a French colony 1890 to 1960) and Gambia (a British colony 1888 to 1965)—marked by millennia of shared history, culture, and geography. The area is in turn part of the larger subregion of the Sahel, formed from medieval African empires and formerly (mostly) French, Portuguese, and British colonial state

Designer Oumou Sy

Hudita Nura Mustafa

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Oumou Sy was born in Podor, Senegal, in 1952. Working at the intersection of art, spectacle, and social space, Sy’s multifaceted work in historical, art, and couture garments expresses the cosmopolitan creativity of the Senegambian region. Rather than elaborations of a design concept, her works are historical tableaux. In this region, cloth densely symbolizes wealth and power, dignity and beauty, history and tradition. Sy’s work and life valorize the arts of cloth, clothing, and body adornment to

Yoruba “Uniforms” (Asọ Ebì)

Okechukwu Nwafor

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

In the Yoruba language asọ means “cloth,” while ebì means “family.” Literally, asọ ebì thus translates as “family cloth.” However, asọ ebì, in recent times, also refers to outfits with identical or very similar colors, tailoring, and combinations of garments worn by groups of friends or family members during important ceremonies such as weddings, birthday parties, and naming ceremonies, among others, to distinguish themselves from others. Various cultural and socioeconomic changes attended asọ eb

Asọ Ebì and Fashion Magazines in Nigeria

Okechukwu Nwafor

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Guinea

Mohamed N’Daou

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Guinea is a country surrounded by Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra-Leone; it shares history with each of these countries that has influenced Guinean modes of dress up to the present day. From the eleventh century to the late nineteenth century, Guinea was an ensemble of separate animist and Islamic precolonial kingdoms, each of them diverse ethnic groups that the French colonizers transformed into a colonial nation called French Guinea from 1895 to 1958, after whic

Equatorial Guinea

Enrique Okenve

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The tiny central African country of Equatorial Guinea covers only 28,051 square kilometers (11,000 square miles). It is comprised of a few islands, of which Bioko—formerly known as Fernando Po—off the coast of Cameroon is the largest, and a 26,000-square-kilometer (10,000-square-mile) mainland territory known as Rio Muni nestled between Cameroon and Gabon. With European expansionism, these territories were ceded in 1778 from Portugal to Spain, but the Spaniards did not arrive until 1858. During t

Fang of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon

Louis P. Perrois

Translated by Francine Farr

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The Fang of equatorial Africa dazzled all who crossed their path of east-to-west migration toward the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Guinea that ended in the early twentieth century. In 1843, U.S. pastor John Wilson noted, as quoted inMerlet’sLe pays des trois estuaires, 1471–1900, that they were “naked except for a bark loincloth …. Their hair hangs in braids. They carry knives, spears, and many iron objects they make themselves.” In 1847, French naval lieutenant Méquet, plying the Como River on the

Nigeria Overview

John Picton

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

A broad if highly oversimplistic view of dress and dress history in Nigeria would probably begin with a contrast between textiles wrapped around the body—a complex of traditions of the forests and southern savannas—and textiles cut and sewn to make garments—practices loosely associated with, but, historically, not wholly dependent on, the advent of Islam in the Sahel and savanna regions. Thereafter, however, the account becomes endlessly complicated because of (a) the interpenetration of the two

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