Outfit, mens, tunic (dandogo) and matching trousers, cotton, made by the Yoruba people, Nigeria, c. 1950 - 1997
This man's tunic and matching trousers are typical examples of traditional dress worn by the Yoruba people of Nigeria in the early 20th century. The outfit formed part of a farewell gift from his father to Abiola Buhari, a young Yoruba man, when he married Australian Clare Maguire at the Registry Office in Lagos in August 1997. The gift was made when the couple left Nigeria for Australia and its significance relates to the Yoruba belief that the possession of gowns and valuable cloth equates to endeavour and subsequent success in life.
Clothing and cloth are extremely important to the Yoruba as social indicators, in rather the same way that westerners regard good manners. The way a person dresses is a significant indicator of age, status, occupation, training and wealth. Whole families will dress in matching outfits for important occasions as an expression of each individual's participation in the activities of the larger group. Children are often compared to cloth in value, while nakedness is equated with insanity; many Yoruba proverbs, sayings and songs are about the values inherent in owning, or not owning, the proper clothes.
The tunic and trousers are part of a collection of Yoruba clothing donated to the Museum by Claire Maguire. The collection also includes matching outfits for a bride and groom; a man's and woman's matching resist-dyed outfits; a man's cream pleated and stitched cap, a dark indigo striped tunic and a sample of gold-striped cotton men's weave cloth.
This man's tunic and matching trousers are made from typical, narrow striped cotton (asa-oke) which is made by Yoruba men in long narrow strips. The men weave in groups of up to 20, using a narrow horizontal loom strung with an extremely long, machine made cotton warp that stretches out as far as 12m in front of them. These looms are equipped with two heddles and a reed for beating the cloth. The fabric produced on these narrow strip looms is usually 10-12m long and only 10cm wide. After it's taken from the loom, it is either sold as is or stitched into square pieces of cloth which are sold to tailors in the markets to be made up into clothing.
The tunic of this outfit is a variant of a northern-style robe developed by the Yoruba. It has two slit-like openings in the front, which originally enabled the wearer to hold the reins of a horse. The tunic has been machine embroidered on the front, around the neck and around the front slits. In addition to straight bands of satin stitch, the 'endless knot' motif, an Islamic design associated with prestige, has been used.
This Nigerian Yoruba man's outfit was a farewell gift to Abiola Buhari, a Yoruba man, by his father. Abiola married an Australian woman, Clare Maguire, at the Registry Office in Lagos, Nigeria, in August 1997. Ms Maguire brought the collection of clothing back to Australia when she and Abiola left Nigeria.
By the time of European contact, weaving was already firmly established in the Yoruba kingdoms of southwest Nigeria, where elaborate palace society provided patronage for a large range of sophisticated handicrafts including weaving and fine beading. Cloth was central to the social, religious, political, economic and cultural life of these African communities and Yoruba weaving was notable for its variety of pattern, colour and technique.