School of Design

ULITA - an Archive of International Textiles

Date: c. 1940
Dimensions: 129 x 257 cm (50 13/16 x 101 3/16 in.)
Medium: cotton
Made in: Africa, Nigeria
Description: This robe, or Agbada, has an oblong shaped body with very broad flared sleeves. It is composed of 48 very fine etu narrow strip woven lengths with light and dark blue coloured cotton warps and wefts. The strips have been hand sewn together selvedge to selvedge.The robe is decorated with hand embroidery, predominantly in buttonhole stitch, and cutwork using bleached white cotton around the left neck and chest area which continues onto the back of the gown. The patterns are geometric in arrangement and can be found around the neck and across the front body panel of the robe. The design includes the Eight Knives pattern (aska takwas). The robe has embroidery around the left neck and chest area which continues as a curved design onto the back. The circle subdivided into squares is a pattern found on shoulder. The Agbada is the formal garment of the Yoruba man. It is a flowing, wide sleeved, gown; the extra sleeve length is folded back and worn over the shoulders. Fine gowns, made from hand woven cloth and intricately embroidered, are worn by important men at ceremonial occasions. 'Agbada' is a Yoruba borrowing from the Hausa robe known as a Riga, which was in widespread use in the Islamic empires of West Africa. Etu is made from a dark indigo dyed cotton or silk, offset by thin warp (sometimes weft) threads of white. The word Etu actually means "Guinea Fowl" and the cloth is said to resemble the speckled appearance of that bird. Etu remains the most prestigious of all Yoruba cloth. This ceremonial outfit was sent to Arthur Cordon (the managing director of Tideswell Manufacturing Co. and P. Wilson & Co., near Manchester from the early 1940s) by agents in West Africa who ran the trading post. The relationship is particularly apt given the intertwined histories of cloth production that exist between Manchester and West Africa.
Inv. No.: 2010.835

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