Wedding outfit, womens, skirt (iro), tunic (buba), shoulder cloth and head cloth (gele), cotton, fabric made by a Yoruba man, maker unknown, worn by Clare Maguire, Nigeria, 1997
This woman's bridal outfit was worn by Australian Clare Maguire when she married Abiola Buhari, a young Nigerian Yoruba man, at the Registry Office in Lagos, Nigeria, in August 1997. Abiola wore a matching tunic, trousers and cap. The heavy cotton material used to make their matching wedding clothes is known as 'asa-oke', and is woven in long narrow strips by Yoruba men. This particular style of fabric is typically worn by Yoruba people at life-defining moments such as naming-ceremonies, engagements, weddings, funerals, major feast days and birthdays, and chiefly title ceremonies. According to the donor, the pale colours and silver lurex thread of the fabric they selected for the the outfits was not typical, as a Nigerian woman would have chosen much brighter colours and gold thread. The pattern of the heavy, yellow machine embroidery on the the tunic and the trousers is in the form of a knot design, a popular motif associated with prestige, which has its background in Islamic iconography.
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.
This bridal outfit is part of a collection of Yoruba clothing brought back to Australia by Clare Maguire and her husband and subsequently donated to the Museum by Claire Maguire. The collection also includes an embroidered yellow tunic and trousers and an indigo-dyed man's tunic given to Abiola by his father, a matching bridal outfit for Abiola, matching resist dyed outfits for them, a man's pleated and stitched cap, and a sample of gold-striped men's weave cloth.
The striped, handwoven 'asa-oke' fabric of the wedding outfit was made from commercially dyed pink, blue and white cotton and silver (commercial lurex) thread. 'Asa-oke' is made by Yoruba men, who weave in groups of up to 20, using a narrow horizontal loom which has an extremely long, machine made cotton warp that may stretch as far as 12m in front of the weaver. The loom is equipped with two heddles and a reed for beating the cloth. The fabric produced on these narrow strip looms is usually 10-12m in length and about 10cm wide. The material is then cut into strips which are either sold as is or stitched into square pieces of cloth for sale in the market.
The cloth selected for the wedding outfits by the donor and her fiancee was not quite typical, in that most African women would have chosen brighter colours and gold, rather than silver, thread. It was bought at the local market and the outfits were made up by a local (male) tailor with embroidery selected by the bride and groom.
Heavy, yellow, plain machine embroidery has been applied around the neck and on the pockets of the tunic, while a knot design, a popular symbol of status, has been applied to the front.
This Nigerian Yoruba wedding outfit was worn by Australian Clare Maguire when she married Abiola Buhari, a young Yoruba man, at the Registry Office in Lagos, Nigeria, in August 1997. Clare left Australia in 1992 to travel abroad and met Abiola while teaching English in Egypt. When Clare had time off she would travel with colleagues and friends to the Sinai for a few days holiday. Clare related 'There were in those days, only a few camps along the road between Nuweiba and the Israeli border. A couple of times we stayed at camp that was being managed by Abiola.....and that is how we met. Abiola returned to Nigeria and I initially went for a short visit returning to Cairo to continue teaching English. Later I went back to Lagos to join him and marry'.
The material for their matching outfits as bride and groom was purchased at the local cloth market and made up by a tailor who added the embroidery chosen by the couple. It was usual for both bride and groom to wear matching outfits for their wedding and whole families would wear matching outfits for special occasions. The wedding outfits are part of a larger collection of Nigerian clothing brought to Australia by Ms Maguire and her husband.
By the time of European contact, weaving was already firmly established in the Yoruba kingdoms of southwest Nigeria. The elaborate palaces provided patronage for a large range of sophisticated handicrafts including weaving and elaborate beading. Cloth was central to the social, religious, political, economic and cultural life of these African communities and the Yoruba weaving was, and still remains, superior because of its variety of pattern, colour and technique.