The master weaver and cloth dealer Alhaji Kegunhe in his shop, Iseyin, Oyo State, Nigeria. 1997. Recently published in B.Gardi ed. "Woven Beauty: The Art of West African Textiles." (Basel, 2009) Iseyin is one of the two main centres of Yoruba aso oke weaving and the Alhaji was one of its most successful weavers and dealers. Each bag contains sufficient cloth strips to be sewn up to make a woman’s wrapper skirt, shawl, and headtie, an outfit known as a “complete.”
Every four days before dawn in Okene market, Kogo State, Ebira women weavers display their completed cloths for sale folded in piles on their heads. Okene, circa 2002. Today Okene is the main centre for women’s weaving on the upright single heddle loom in Nigeria, with several thousand active weavers producing shiny rayon shawls in a variety of patterns which can be found on sale as far afield as Accra.
Hausa men weaving white cloth in strips 1cm in width. The completed strips will be sewn together edge to edge to make veils and robes, dyed dark indigo, then exported to Tuareg peoples in Niger and Mali. Kura, Kano State. Nigeria 2005. These are the narrowest strip of cloth woven in Africa and are among the most expensive of locally produced textiles. The production of this cloth for export to the peoples of the Sahara was once the main industry of Kano but today only a few skilled practitioners remain.
A pair of Hausa cloth beaters at work in the village of Kura. Completed and dyed veils are beaten with a mix of powdered indigo, goat fat, and water that imparts a metallic dark blue sheen. The cloth will be folded over into ever smaller sections and beaten repeatedly until the tightly pressed cloth forms a solid rectangular block about 30cm long. It is then wrapped in brown paper for sale. These two men are among the last remaining exponents of an ancient and highly skilled craft. Kura, Kano State, Nigeria, 2005.
A Nupe woman weaver at work in her husband's family compound, Lafiagi, Niger State, Nigeria, 2006. Unlike the Ebira, Nupe women weave mainly for local and family use and their cloths are rarely found for sale elsewhere in Nigeria or neighbouring countries.
Click on any image to enlarge. All photos copyright Duncan Clarke. Do not reproduce without permission.