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Robe (boubou)

This formation of this large robe contains information about textile making in sub-Saharan Africa. The robe is sewn from 4.5-centimetre woven cotton strips and embroidered with circular symbols. The strips are dyed and pounded with indigo until they take on a metallic sheen.

Where was this textile created?

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Robe (boubou)
Africa: West Africa, Nigeria; Tuareg people
c. 1976
Cotton, woven, embroidered, indigo dyed and burnished
295 cm x 152 cm
From the Opekar/ Webster Collection
T94.3009 Textile Museum of Canada

The northern Nigerian technique of constructing robes and veils from narrow strips of cloth is based on a Saharan tradition. Saharan traders use wheels of cotton strips, called dindi or wendi, as a form of currency, and to a degree this robe is also a form of currency. The indigo dye that saturates the robe adds to its value because it stains the wearer’s skin a deep blue.

“How can a simple piece of white cotton cloth end up looking like this? The fact that cotton cloth can end up looking like patent leather is amazing to me. There’s a strength and power in this kind of minimalism.” Judith Fielder, Canadian textile artist

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