African Art
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Prestige Cloth (Aṣọ-òkè)

19th century

Hand-spun cotton and silk (alaari)

172 × 109 cm (67 11/16 × 42 15/16 in.)
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund
To make this sumptuous garment, a master Yorùbá weaver working on a horizontally oriented, double-heddle loom wove ten individual lengths of cloth, which were then stitched together with alternating patterns. While men were responsible for the actual weaving of aṣọ-òkè, women played a crucial role in the early stages of production, assisting in the planting and harvesting of cotton, the spinning of the cotton into thread, and afterward, the dyeing and preparation of the threads for weaving. The distinctive motif in silk of a rectangle with an arrowlike projection at one end, which runs across alternating strips and is framed by green and magenta triangles, is based on the form of a writing board that was used in Qur’anic schools to teach Arabic. The pattern speaks to the history of trade and exchange between Yorùbá and Islamic cultures.
Ondo City, Ondo, Nigeria
On view
19th century

Purchased by Duncan Clarke in 2018 in Ondo, Nigeria, from a noble family; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.