Wedding outfit, mens, tunic (dashiki), trousers (shokoto) and hat, cotton, fabric made by a Yoruba man, maker unknown, worn by Abiola Buhari, Nigeria, 1997
This man's wedding outfit was worn by Abiola Buhari, a young Nigerian Yoruba man, when he married Australian Clare Maguire at the Registry Office in Lagos, Nigeria, in August 1997. Clare wore a matching tunic, skirt, shoulder cloth and head cloth. 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.
The bridegroom's 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, an indigo-dyed man's tunic, matching bridal outfit for Claire, 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 from which 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.
The neck and front pocket-slits of the tunic have been heavily machine embroidered in plain, yellow stitching. The front has also been embroidered with nine knot designs, a popular symbol of status, which appears on the bride's tunic only once. The 'skirt' of the tunic is gored for extra fullness. The top of the trousers, which are draw-string, have been made from plain white commercial cotton, while the cuffs have heavy, straight embroidery as well as the knot design. The cap is embroidered with the same yellow in a heavy diamond pattern around the head.
This Nigerian Yoruba wedding outfit was worn by Abiola Buhari, when he married Australian Clare Maguire at the Registry Office in Lagos, Nigeria, in August 1997. 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.