It is a statement of fact to say that many of African fabrics are no more known in our age and this applies to many indigenous crafts that was once passed from one generation to the other. However, the diverse nature of the exhibition and fair GTBank Fashion Weekend availed me opportunity to ask questions and I got the desired answers.
The nomenclature, Aso-Ofi or Aso-Oke, as much as I know, have been largely used as synonyms over the years based on the understanding of the discussants. In 2016, during the administration of the former Governor of Oyo State, Isiaq Abiola Ajumobi organized an Aso-Oke Festival was observed to coincide with the World Tourism Day to project Iseyin as a hub of Aso-Oke and the government used the opportunity for the foundation laying ceremony of the Aso-Ofi International Tourism Market.
This special handcraft is usually spun out of cotton used for special events and for the regal. Equally, it serves various purposes in the house, some use it for bags, shoes, furniture amongst others. It is a special craft that must be learnt despite the seemingly simplicity.
As described by GTBank, “The Ogidi Women, from Kogi State, have been regarded as one of the prominent custodians of Aso-Oke from linear designs to more vibrant and colourful styles, these women have developed an unrivaled style and technique in the fabric’s design, motifs and painting”. All of these and more were brought to the fair to delight the teeming cultural enthusiast so that they can have a first-hand experience.
They were not ashamed of their weaving and they did it with all sense of pride and they were willing to explain to any willing listener about their craft and herein is an excerpt of my lessons from their stall-
Aso-Ofi is usually spun at a closer range, the already arranged wools are separated through sticks usually between two and three. The arranged wools in various colours will help to determine the eventual beauty of the completed work. In the process of the weaving, the desired wordings can be written on the fabric. Aso-Ofi is a finished product from the weaving stage especially for women wrapper and agbada for men. There is little or no need for it to go to the tailor sowing again and if it goes, the sowing is minimal.
Aso-Oke is usually woven from a made wooden structure. The weaving of aso-oke is usually done with prearranged wools held on a stone from a distance and a small wooden cuplike item will be moving through the wools to form a small inched yard. The finished product of aso-oke needs to be joined by a tailor to make a women wrapper and caps for men. Any desired wordings would have to go to another person to curate on the spur yards.
It was an enriching discussion with the Ogidi Women, obviously, other communities involved in the production of Aso-Ofi or Aso-Oke might disagree with these definitions, but I am still open to more learnings on Aso-Ofi and Aso-Oke.