The Rise Of A New Era In The Nigerian Textile Industry

I would like to thank one of my oldest friends Bukky for giving me this platform to write on my opinions. I remember when we first discussed it, it was just after I had returned from a ‘romantic’ travel, she wanted me to write an article on my Zanzibar experience which I did and after putting that in I suppose she really liked it and we talked about writing twice monthly for her site or so, now I knew deep down I had a lot on my plate and as such couldn’t be so committed to writing that often or according to a schedule.

I did tell her straight up I couldn’t write that often, still I considered it and actually tried, I discovered two things;

1) That I couldn’t just will myself to write, even when I tried to go off and be by myself to be in that mental space then I had a talk with her, even though I wasn’t detailed she assured me I was under no pressure, I could write as I felt and totally do me.

2) I didn’t realize when she said I could write about anything I could actually write about anything, I was having trouble coming to terms with the idea that as this was a site promoting Africa/made in Africa all my writing had to be in line with that.

So rein in tight and get ready to read about a broad spectrum of my interesting take and thoughts on happenings with Africa as a centre stage and beyond. 

It’s 2.24am and I couldn’t sleep, I was having a phone chat with a friend lets call him F, I heard a word I have never remotely come across in all my years of reading about horoscopes ‘taurini’ apparently I am taurini.

Taurini is basically a term for people born between the Taurus and Gemini cusps and it all began to make sense, I have always felt like multiple individuals trapped in one body now I don’t suffer from mpd or anything of the sort it just means that people who come in contact with me may have varied opinions about me however my core remains the same and undaunted.

This a.m after I got off the phone with my friend I wrote this piece, also I came to a number of realizations, some of which I have discussed, the rest of which I’m not ready to talk about as I haven’t fully processed it and may probably be up in my next article.

Now to get right into the jump of things, I write as well as design and curate fashion and art, I just purchased this gorgeous metallic pleat fabric and was having a hard time deciding on a design so I went online to research on the pleat fabric where I inadvertently stumbled on Issey Miyake’s pleats please collection for a second time.

I had earlier on in January seen his collection and a lot of Asians looking very Issey Miyake stylish in structured pleated apparels in Rome and again in London. They were like outfits from a progressive alien spaceship movie in an aesthetically pleasing design of course, very much like architecture on human form.

What he did with the fabrics and designs was nothing short of innovative, digging further I discovered a lot of his designs must have been influenced by origami; Origami is the art of paper folding which is often associated with Japanese culture. The pleat fabrics used must have been of a pliable quality which enabled the use of origami art to create different fold patterns. I love how Issey Miyake has recreated the age-long Japanese origami technique by infusing them into his designs.

This brings me to an important question, what is going on in the Nigerian textile industry? While I’m enjoying the made in Nigerian buzz going on, it would be very encouraging to see it extended to the textile industry. Africa has a lot of traditions and cultures that can tell our peculiar social story with particular reference to the textile industry if harnessed and polished can be used to generate major revenue and employment even in art and culture tourism.

African fabrics resonate with me so much for their intricate earthy patterns that captures vividly the depth, soul and strength of Africans and our rich culture. For instance the Bongolanfini fabric which literally translates to mud-cloth or Bogolan a handmade Malian cotton fabric by the Bamana tribe dyed with fermented mud, Adire fabric a handmade indigo dyed cloth made in southwestern Nigeria by yoruba women using various resist dye techniques: Oniko, Alabere and Elecko, the Ndop textile from the Bamileke, Bamum, Bamenda people of Cameroon also a hand woven cotton cloth using bold stitch or wax resist dye technique in white on indigo.

Though the fabrics are from three different West African countries and while there are a few similarities such as the dyeing process and techniques, their use for ceremonial attires, their use for arts and craft each pattern and colour combination tells its own unique cultural story.

The current focus on things African should not be centred on elevating African culture above any other culture rather to promote African culture and tradition by highlighting its own richness and diversity and capacity to contribute to world cultural heritage.

Not to knock the current celebration of all things African, it’s time I believe for the current generation of Africans to take our rich and diverse cultural heritage to the next level through fusing African fabrics, designs and aesthetics with that of other cultures, using technology to improve on the textures and other elements of African textiles and aesthetics.

In bridging the gap between cultures, charity must begin at home, still of immense importance is the need to appreciate our heritage by preserving useful age long traditions passed on from generation to generation, constantly tweaking and calibrating these traditions to maximize its potential.

It is not enough to let westerners take centre stage and showcase our rich culture abroad, Africa needs to put its rich African heritage on the map in Africa.

I absolutely love the story designer Maki Oh is recreating with the adire on the international scene as well as at home, applying the handmade adire dyeing technique on more pliable fibers thus enhancing the versatility of the technique. Another fabric unique to the African scene though its origin can be traced to Indonesia but garnered popularity after its arrival in Africa and has been very prominent in the made in Nigeria buzz is the Ankara which has bolder and more colourful patterns.

The Ankara is created using the Indonesian resist dyeing technique called Batik. I am a passionate promoter and root for all positive things out of Africa and I commend efforts by different individuals in sustaining age long traditions, still I believe we can do more, researches and experiments must constantly be carried out to see how these fabrics can be recreated and improved on, synthetic and natural fibers such as polyester, rayon, silk can be infused to cotton to make them more pliable in creating versatile designs, crossing borders and boundaries.

Also, more attention should be paid to the aesthetics of colours used and details and I believe that through our designs, fabrics and dyeing techniques we can explore the arts and culture scene to tell a story unique to Africa.

In conclusion I believe the government has a huge part to play in reviving the defunct Nigerian textile industry by;

1) Creating a policy to facilitate low cost long term loans to the textile industry.

2) Making sure the law is enforced to regulate e.g through high import duties, not necessarily ban importation of textiles from Asian countries which can minimalize smuggling cases.

3) Help facilitate a noteworthy arts and culture festival where our indigenous art and culture such as textiles can be exhibited. After Festac 77 also known as the Second World Black and African Festival for Arts and Culture which held in Lagos with about 16,000 participants representing 56 African countries and countries of the African diaspora I don’t know of any exhibition of that magnitude that has occurred.

In the same vein, individuals can come together and set up an association in the textile industry similar to co-operatives in agriculture were they can support each other.

I have attached images which I didn’t capture myself for a vivid picture of what I’ve talked about.

The Bongolanfini used beautifully here for furnishing.

Nigerian Textile Industry rise, African Culture, Africa, fashion, fabrics, Tatase Lagos, Bellafricana

Image culled from https://www.google.com/search?q=bogolanfini&client=safari&hl=en&prmd=simvn&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiojriY0NzMAhVqJ8AKHf-RCQwQ_AUICCgC&biw=375&bih=559#imgrc=Esvq79ZbnB-zYM%3A

Ndop fabrics.

Nigerian Textile Industry rise, African Culture, Africa, fashion, fabrics, Tatase Lagos, Bellafricana

Image culled from https://www.google.com/search?q=ndop&client=safari&hl=en&prmd=mniv&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjXtKCQ0tzMAhVqB8AKHYOPBYkQ_AUICSgD&biw=375&bih=559#hl=en&tbm=isch&q=ndop+fabric&imgrc=_eVAa08rPZXOMM%3A

 A stylish woman in Bongolanfini patterns.

Nigerian Textile Industry rise, African Culture, Africa, fashion, fabrics, Tatase Lagos, Bellafricana

Image culled from https://www.google.com/search?q=bogolanfini&client=safari&hl=en&prmd=simvn&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiojriY0NzMAhVqJ8AKHf-RCQwQ_AUICCgC&biw=375&bih=559#imgrc=qiN -V4x0wSyYLM%3A

Ndop fabric used in an art and culture exhibition.

Nigerian Textile Industry rise, African Culture, Africa, fashion, fabrics, Tatase Lagos, Bellafricana

Image culled from https://www.google.com/search?q=ndop&client=safari&hl=en&prmd=mniv&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjXtKCQ0tzMAhVqB8AKHYOPBYkQ_AUICSgD&biw=375&bih=559#hl=en&tbm=isch&q=ndop+fabric&imgrc=hpPcRteXmC4UbM%3A

Bongolanfini dyers making magic with feathers used to apply the resist dye.

Nigerian Textile Industry rise, African Culture, Africa, fashion, fabrics, Tatase Lagos, Bellafricana

Image culled from https://www.google.com/search?q=bogolanfini&client=safari&hl=en&prmd=simvn&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjh8oSc09zMAhVICsAKHd9gCNcQ_AUICCgC&biw=375&bih=559#imgrc=UVHjoMovWk0jkM%3A

An Adire (tie and dye) inspired blouse by international designer Altazurra.

Nigerian Textile Industry rise, African Culture, Africa, fashion, fabrics, Tatase Lagos, Bellafricana

Image culled from @harpersbazaarus on Instagram.

Image culled from @harpersbazaarus on Instagram.

Other Sources:

Image culled from https://www.google.com/search

Tosin Ashaye is the founder of Tatase Lagos.

Tatase is a fashion, art and culture curator with a vision of donning more and more women in Nigeria and abroad in wearable art pieces using beautiful textures against fabrics and appliqué sourced both locally and internationally to achieve a subtle yet fashionable and elegant look and support the awakening of made in Nigeria products whilst focusing on quality.

She is also a partner at Ivada Survey. Ivadasurvey.com is Nigeria’s first paid online survey platform that seeks to improve made in Nigeria products through feedback from consumers.

She can be reached at tataselagos@gmail.com.

  • Jenni

    If you are expecting the government to push this, it is unlikely. I suggest the designers and wearers themselves, as happened in Nollywood and other areas including agriculture now, start making the push themselves. By the time the Nigerian fashion genre becomes successful, government will eventually come on board.

    • I totally agree with you. The push starts from us, as you clearly stated, “both the designers and the wearers” have a huge part to play. We just got to keep pushing till the government catches up and does the needful. We can start with marketing the genuine local suppliers, which is what likes of Bellafricana is doing to raise the awareness and in time increase demand and supply.