Aso-Oke is a short form of Aso Ilu Oke also known as Aso-Ofi meaning clothes from the country highland area. Aso oke is an important item of clothing worn by Yoruba men and women in the western Nigeria, Africa, especially on special occasions and social gatherings like weddings, house warming, burial ceremonies, naming ceremonies, chieftancy, coronation and religious festivals. Women wear it in form of a wrap-around skirt called Iro with a Gele, and Iborun, a shawl of the same material worn over the shoulder or tied round the waist, while men wear an ensemble of the Aso-Oke consisting of a large gown Agbada and trousers Sokoto.
The beauty of Aso-Oke comes out more when it is taken as Aso-Ebi (group of people e.g. friends, families e.t.c). Cloth weaving (Aso-Oke) started centuries ago amongst the Yorubas predominantly amongst the Iseyins (Oyo-State). It is also practised in Ede(Osun State), Okene(Kogi State), and some area in Ghana.
In terms of designs, great ingenuity is usually brought to play by the creators of the Aso-Oke fabric. They work relentlessly behind the loom, spinning different colours of the wool together to come out with unique designs that will be the toast of the users.
The woven designs on this cloth vary from town to town. Some designs are coined from the writing boards used especially by the Hausa to practice writing verses from the Qur’an. In fact this design is said to have a Hausa origin.
The primary raw materials for Aso –Oke making are majorly cotton and dyes. The dyes, silk and fibres used in making different types of Aso-Oke are either locally sourced or brought from Hausa, at times imported from Tunisia, Italy and France. The cotton is used in making the threads used in weaving Aso-Oke and it is mostly planted during the rainy season between the month of June and July. However, the cottons would be ready for harvesting between November and February of the following year. Most cases after harvesting the cottons are kept in the bar for spinning.
These include the following:
-:Iye (Long Wheel)`
-:Gowu and kokogun (Rollers)
-:Sanrin (Metallic Peg)
-:Itese ( Pedals)
-:Ikeke (Extender Roller)
-:Okeke (Wheel or Axle)
-:Okuku (Strain Holder)
-:Sofi ( Perforator)
-:Sugudu ( Propeller Hanger)
-:Oko (Shuttle): Canoe Shape
During patterning, the cotton reels are hanged upon the hangers on the sets of the metallic pegs on the ground. The reason for this is to make the cotton into bundles.
After the above has been put in place, the actual weaving starts. The rolled cotton will be neatly inserted into the striker through the extenders. The weaver will tie Iro (filler) on his seat. There are tow or more holes on the staff in which a small peg is tagged. On the upper hand of the Omu (Extenders), there is Okeke (Wheel or Axle) for pulling the Omu up and down. There are two step pedals under the extenders (Omu) which the weaver presses down interchangeably during weaving. The pedal when pressed enables the cotton to open and the Reeler put through to one side while the Striker knocks the reel to and fro to another side. This Striker allows the reel to be finely set interchangeably. The weaver handles the Oko (Shuttle) throws it inside the open cotton to be received by his other hand, movement of the Motor continues and faster as if the weaver is not touching it at all. The reel inside the motor will start giving a peculiar sound:
- Sakala - si - sakala - sa
- Sakala - si - sakala - sa
As the weaver continues this way, the cloth is weaved and gradually extends forward. The weaver uses the drawer to pull the cloth towards himself and the carrier obeys the force and moves towards him while weaving continues. Aso-Oke is indeed a beautiful sight to behold and that's why it is such a wonder how, as cottons in few minutes become Aso-Oke, however the clothes goes by different names depending on the type, texture and quality.