2009 Weave of the week #36: Nigerian hat (“Aso Oke”)

Nigerian man's hat

Nigerian man's hat

I chose the hat shown above as this week’s featured weave because I love the fabrics that were stitched together to make it,  the colors, and the overall design.  It came from a hole-in-the-wall African import store that once existed near Times Square.

There were no labels or tags, but identifying my hat was easy because it has several distinctive design elements that are characteristic of traditional Nigerian Yoruba handwoven narrow strip fabrics (Aso Oke).  The detail below shows those characteristics clearly:  plainweave cotton with a colored warp stripe, magenta weft brocade (possibly from waste silk), openwork holes made by drawing groups of warp threads together (or by using a comb), and discontinuous warp floats that are woven through the holes.  The gold metallic yarn was probably a Japanese import.

hat det

Wikipedia says that Aso Oke hats originated in Nigeria but are widely worn by African men for special occasions and religious holidays.  It puzzles me that although these are men’s hats, mine is only 10″ in diameter and barely fits my smallest mannequin’s head.  I didn’t come across any description of boys’ formal headwear, so perhaps it was made to fit a boy’s head.  And although hats of this style are typically worn draped over the ear on one side, the stitching and lining make my  hat too stiff to slouch gracefully.

As I mentioned, I shelved this article last week to write about Yinka Shonibare’s exhibition instead,  and since he is of Nigerian descent,  I like the idea of highlighting traditional Nigerian textiles this week.  Then too,  as my husband astutely observed, after all of Shonibare’s headless bodies,  it seems fitting to write about bodiless heads this week.

4 Responses

  1. Hi, Shirley, Thanks so much for reading and for your kind comment. Next week’s ‘wotw’ will be something completely different … as usual ; )

  2. Fern,
    Love this hat♥
    Thanks for the great blog, I look forward to the ‘wotw’ every week.
    keep up the good work,

  3. Hi, Eva, I’ve got “Mandabi” here and am looking forward to watching it even more after your comment.

    Thanks for all the good input.


  4. I like the hat and I enjoyed watching “Mandabi”, those textiles are gorgeous and seeing them worn as garments by people in their every-day life was even more beautiful!

    It’s interesting you mention Desiree Koslin’s upcoming talk, I was in her “Weave Construction & Analysis” class in the early 80’s and she’s terrific. I still use the notes from her class today.

    Thanks, Fern, for the post!


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