Categories: Ebira Lifestyle

Apprenticeship System for Traditional Cloth Weaving in Ebiraland

Origin of Textile Weaving in Ebiraland

Prior to the 13th century, the art of textile weaving was already a practice in Ebiraland. The first material known to have been utilized by the Ebira to weave cloth is called evaze which is a fibre obtained from shrubs. However, from the 13th century, the use of Evaze as a material for weaving cloth was replaced by cotton which were grown locally. The cotton material were of two categories – the pure white cotton variety and a brown-like variety. By dying the hand-spun white yam, other colors including blue, black, and red were produced. In the 1930s, Ebiraland started receiving imported multicolored machine-spun yarns from the British empire. The range of colors that might be used to create woven fabrics was expanded by the import of yarns. During this period, cloth weaving is done using yarns that were both locally spun with hand and imported.

Gradually, the use of hand-spun yarns was severely reduced as the use of imported yarns started gaining massive recognition and use. Silk yarn eventually made its way into the Ebira market by 1931. The multicolored, beautiful, imported yarns, both of the cotton and silk varieties, were used by cloth weavers to experiment with different color combinations. By 1951, the availability of multicolored yarns and the perfection with which cloth weavers could work the yarns spurred cloth weavers to investigate the possibility of incorporating more complicated patterns into the woven fabrics.

Around 1960, textile traders from outside of Ebiraland referred to the hand-woven fabrics as “modern Okene cloth” and this was when cloth being woven in various attractive designs was abundant in the Central Market of Okene.  Subsequently, intriguing multicolor patterns, figurative and abstract designs were woven by hand into several types of cloth.

History of Apprenticeship System for local textile weaving in Ebiraland

In the past, textile weavers in Ebiraland were all taught through their families. That is, mothers teach their daughters the art of fabric weaving. This is true because I confirmed it from my mother, she told me that she also learnt the art of textile weaving from her mother. But on occasion, especially whenever new designs were developed, skilled weavers taught their neighbors.  In a primary school in Okene, the instruction of cloth weaving was first introduced in about 1964 as one of the Domestic Science subject to be taught in schools in Ebiraland. The teaching of textile weaving during such domestic lessons was meant to benefit girls in classes from primary four to seven . This is because the art of cloth weaving in Ebiraland belong to the women.

A private businessman named Alhaji Yusuf Utohu founded the “Okene Weaving Centre” in the 1960s as a vocational weaving center where young girls and women can learn the art of weaving cloth. At the center, several highly skilled cloth weavers were employed on a full-time basis to teach other weaver-employees pattern design. The conventional vertical loom and floor loom, the latter a recent development in fabric weaving in Ebiraland, were both employed at the Center.

Also, another Reverend Father founded the “Ododo Weaving Centre” at Ogaminana in the early 1970s, another private weaving facility. This was established to encourage girls whom are primary school dropouts and lacked the opportunity to further their  basic education to become better at contemporary cloth. The Center hoped that these young women would one day work as professional textile weavers on a full-time basis as their source of livelihood. This was put in place so they won’t have to fully depend on their husbands in the future.

In order to further their training in domestic science, including cloth weaving, the Ebira Education Authority sent some female teachers to a State-established Home Economic Center in 1972, located in Ageva , a Local Government Area in Okene. This center was an outgrowth of the State Ministry of Agriculture and National Resources. As more student-teachers graduated from the Center. The education authority started creating Household Center at elementary schools around Ebiraland.

In the year 1990, around thirteen vocation centers for textile weaving were already existing in Okene. The job of instructing the female students in the craft of cloth weaving, especially in the making of contemporary and intricate patterns on cloth, was taken up by professional teachers, who are renowned and skilled in the art of weaving cloths across Okene. The Domestic Centers at different elementary schools were not adequately funded, which is akin to what happened to the two private weaving centers that were previously described. The School Management Board failed to provide the supplies needed for fabric weaving, notably yarns. Because of this, only the theoretical aspects of textile weaving were taught, and each Center could only afford one loom for demonstrations. The old apprenticeship system became the primary method of influencing knowledge of textile weaving as a result of teachers and students’ lack of enthusiasm.

A new method of fabric weaving was introduced in the late 1980s. This is what we presently call the horizontal-loom (oguntoro)textile weaving, which was invented by a Yoruba woman who lives in Ihima located in Okehi Local Government Area. Young ladies from different regions of Ebiraland quickly acquired the new weaving method. As a result of this change, young girls now weave clothes on the Oguntoro (horizontal looms) instead of the vertical looms used by middle-aged women. Both of these groups of weavers work on an individual basis.  Back then, there are no weaving associations, which should be in charge of negotiating commissions, creating new designs, and possibly instructing local residents in more complex weaving techniques.

Conclusion and Closing Remark

One of the best hand-woven fabrics in Nigeria is Ebira woven cloths, however, innovation has taken over as there are now faster and more efficient means to make woven clothes. Thankfully, the technology of cloth weaving is improving and with vocational interventions, graduates of tertiary institutions, as well dropouts from high schools, can be able to commence their own businesses weaving clothes. An angry person they say is a hungry person. Social growth of the populace will be meaningful and political hooliganism by both youth and adults will decrease to the barest minimum if the majority of the population, especially the youths in are actively employed. We believe that the cloth weaving skills combined with innovation and technology, can address the afforemtioned not only in ebiraland but in the nation as a whole.





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