16 December 2012

Nigeria: Bida - the Home of Royal Regalia

Minna — The traditional weaving industry might lack the capital base of the modern industries but it hasn't lost its alure and depth in some parts of the country. Our correspondent discovers that 99 different instruments are needed to weave a piece of cloth among the traditional weavers in Bida, Niger State. The town is also famous for producing the regalia of the royalty.

A set of 99 instruments are required for traditional weaving; and if one of them is missing, weaving can never take place, said one of its leading experts.

Alhaji Mohammed Laushe, 70, who has been in the business of traditional weaving since birth, told Sunday Trust that no single instrument is dispensable in the art of traditional weaving, using a traditional machine otherwise called Loom.

Laushe, owing to old age set aside a few days in the week as production-free days. Though the visit of this reporter coincided with his work-free day, Leshe decided to demonstrate the processes involved in the production of the traditional textile.

The processes that look cumbersome require total devotion, as the eyes, hands and legs are fully engaged in manoeuvring the simply installed pieces of well curved woods that make up the machine.

Laushe, who inherited the craft from his forefathers, said all the instruments he currently uses on his loom were bought by his parents before he was even born, and that they usually got the supply of the instruments from Ilorin, the present capital of Kwara State.

He said there are over 16 persons from his family that are today in the weaving business, adding that his own children too, two boys and five girls, are into it.

Laushe gave the traditional names of some of the instruments as makor, takala, kure, karfe, kugiya, bankoro, mastefa, koshiya, nila and kunkuru, which he said are among the 99 instruments that must be assembled for a loom to become functional.

Explaining their use, Laushe said makor is a component required for the loom to be optimally functional, while kure is used in processing the thread. Takara is roller processor for rolling weaved material into bundles, karfe serves as a break while rolling the weaved materials, kugiya is used for hooking weaved material, bankoro serves as a coil in the engine of the loom, and matsefa is another major component of the loom that helps in combing the major raw material for weaving thread to avoid being inter woven in the process of hooking the loom.

Other components that the loom cannot function without are koshiya, considered by the traditional weavers as back bone facilitating the weaving; and nila, a twin instrument used simultaneously. Takara is another twin instruments use in leg pedalling the loom as well as kunkuru which works as conveyer belt for transporting the weaved materials.

Traditional wears of all sorts are the kind of products you can get when you are in Bida, though due to time consumption in their production and high demand of the products, you cannot see them commonly on display.

According to Laushe, it takes time to produce the quantity of the pieces of textile materials required for the production of a particular garment, considering the fact that weaving by using the Loom machine the materials come in pieces before they are sewn into a desired wear.

He said it takes one whole year to produce the pieces of textile materials needed for the production of a traditional royal garment such as Gare, Aska Biyu, Aska Bakwai, and Dikwuwa (all big gowns); whereas smaller gowns like Barage, Edugi, Edukun, Zabo, Eyotoshi, Toggo and Tashi could be produced in less time.

Laushe explained that he had to produce four pieces of materials that come in a form of a roll, and each is expected to be as long as 100 metres for the manufacturing of a garment.

After these pieces are produced, it is now left for the customer to decide how he desires the chosen garment to be sewn, because it could be sewn traditionally by using thread and needle, or be sewn by a tailor using the sewing machine - after which it would be taken to embroidery specialists who would they fix it through the traditional method.

The more the traditional touch a particular garment gets, the more value is added to it, and the more the cost of production increases, hence the patronage of these particular garments by the highly placed individuals in the society.

The royal regalia can cost as much as N100,000 while the smaller ones could be sewn for as low as N40,000.

It is a tradition in royal houses in northern Nigeria to present such garments as souvenirs to important personalities.

It should be noted that traditional royal regalia are extra large in size, and are mostly worn by traditional rulers.

Similarly, women wears, from headgears to wrappers of different shapes and sizes, could also be produced through the traditional means of weaving to the taste of any customer.

Traditional weaving is unique in the sense that the challenge of stiff competition most often faced by indigenous manufacturers of all sorts of commodities does not seem to affect the production of materials.

Laushe said sometimes they produce the materials in large quantities waiting for buyers, who more often than not are readily available. However, he said, sometimes their productions are based on requests, particularly from traditional rulers, who are their major customers. That's how Bida becomes the true home of the royal garments.

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