Can you imagine going out of your house on a particular morning without putting on a cloth? How ridiculous that could be. You could easily be taken as a mad person. As we all know, dressing has always been an important part of our daily lives. It is more than just the clothes we put on the body, rather it signifies our identity as well as our self-worth. Nigeria is a country with various ethnic groups with each having its diverse culture. Language, mode of dressing, food, religion etc each exemplifies different cultures. The dressing or clothing style of northern Nigeria for example is different from that of the southerners and likewise the easterners.
Clothing encapsulates anything we place on our body in order to adore it like makeup, jewellery, apparels and sometimes wristwatches. We put on clothes for different reasons, but our culture mostly dictates our modes of dressing. Hardly would you see an Igbo woman dressing like a Hausa. That’s because they are subjected to their culture. Although western civilization has crawled in and yes, I will say westernization has had a great influence on African culture both negatively and positively. Notwithstanding the acculturation, we still have our ways of displaying our culture. Let’s take the Hausa ethnic group as our case study here.
The Hausa tribe is one of the three prominent ethnic groups in Nigeria. It is also considered one of the largest tribes in West Africa. Hausas are outstanding in different aspects of their culture. They have several practices that are exclusively found among them. The greatest population of the Hausas are found in north-western Nigeria. Cities occupied by them include Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Makurdi, Lafia, Kebbi etc.
Throughout the Middle ages, the Hausa were famous for their cloth weaving and dyeing, leather sandals, cotton goods, leatherworking etc and export of such goods throughout the West Africa region as to North Africa. Hausa leather was often identified by their indigo blue dressing and emblems which earned them the nickname “blue men.” They were good at tie-dyeing and this method has been adopted for centuries. The tie-dyeing clothing is then richly embroidered in traditional patterns.
The Hausa mode of dressing remains a unique and fascinating one. You can easily identify a Hausa boy or girl, just anywhere you find him or her. The traditional dress of the Hausa is usually of a flowing gown and trousers. They are usually wide with openings that allow for ventilation. The trousers are baggy at the top and centre, but tight around the legs.
The men do have on their head turbans which usually covers a part of their face leaving their eyes. Mostly the religious leaders do dress in this manner. The men are easily recognized by their elaborate dress which is a large flowing gown known as “Babban Riga” which is also known by various other names like “Agbada” in the Yoruba tribe due to adaptation by many ethnic groups neighbouring the Hausa. The men’s attire usually feature elaborate embroidery designs around the neck and chest area. This is a unique attribute about their clothing, unlike the Yoruba Agbada which are usually plain with little or no design. Babban Riga is worn on special religious or ceremonial occasions such as weddings, Eid festivals or for attending Mosque on Friday for prayer.
Men also wear colourful caps known as “Hula”, just like the Babban Riga which is always decorated with embroideries, the Hula is as well embroidered. Depending on their location and occupation and mostly their religion, they may wear the turban around this to veil the face, called “Alasho”. The Hausa practice the Islamic religion which is a basis for their mode of dressing.
Typical to most tribes is the wrapper. The Hausa women can be identified by wrappers called “Zani”, made with a colourful cloth known as “Atampa” or “Ankara”, (a descendant of early designs from the famous Tie-dye techniques the Hausa have for centuries been known for, named after the Hausa name for Accra the capital of what is now Ghana, and where an old Hausa speaking trading community still lives) and is accompanied by a matching blouse, head tie (Kallabi) and shawl (Gyale).
Have you probably seen a Hausa bride before? it’s one thing you should be looking forward to. Hausa weddings are considered to be the most cost-effective and cheap traditional marriage in Nigeria, with the simplest requirements. Skipping all the processes that take place before the wedding. The wedding day ceremony is known as “Aure” and to some people, “Fatiha”. So, when you hear things like “yau ne ranan arren”, know that it is the wedding day.
On the day of the wedding, the bride remains indoors with her friends and older women. This could probably be referred to as a bridal shower. These people help her get dressed. She is decorated with jewellery and makeup is being done for her. “Lalle” (kunshi) which is also known as “Hienna” is one of their most fascinating make-up. They barely can do without it. The Lalle decoration is done on both her hands and feet. And probably the name of her husband is written on the hand as the Indians do. The Lalle is always so cool! I think a veil is typical of most African cultures for traditional marriage rites.
The men are not left out in fashion. A key part of their outfit is the embroidery.
Their caps are heavily embroidered unlike the more simple “Filas” of the Yoruba likewise their Baban Riga. They may portray a less showy style but that does not mean they do not scrimp on their outfits.
If you want to catch the attention of people to yourself, just go to a ceremonial function dressed in classic Hausa attire and you would have every face turned to you. And you will feel like a queen or a prince!