West Africa, Nigeria, Yoruba or Hausa, ca. 1900. A most impressive chief's Dandogo Agbada/Babban Riga that is over 100 years old! This voluminous "robe of honor" was created to signify power, influence, and success. Comprised of finely woven cotton threads woven in narrow strips on a hand loom that were skillfully sewn together and demonstrate the most valued patterns such as etu and ikat - and extensively embroidered with elaborate white cotton medallions arranged in a symmetrical design on the bodice, a larger embroidered medallion on the back, as well as complex linear and geometric borders highlighting two pockets and the collar. Size: 46.5" L x 104" W (118.1 cm x 264.2 cm)
This robe is finely woven from hand spun cotton fibers colored with vegetable dyes. The striated pattern of the fabric is displayed on both sides due to the ikat process (see more on this below) and presents striated passages of varying thicknesses as well as colors - deep indigo, sky blue, forest green, burgundy red, black, and beige. Yoruba and Hausa weavers were among only a few weaving groups in West Africa to use the ikat technique, and most examples display a simple alternation of colors within a warp stripe. Usually woven by men, fabric like this was traditionally used to make men's garments known as agbada, women's wraps known as iro, and men's hats known as fila.
Ikat is a technique of dyeing in order to create patterned textiles. The yarns are resist dyed before the fabric is woven. The resist is achieved by binding individual yarns or sometimes bundles of yarns with a tight wrapping that is applied in the desired pattern. Interestingly, the word ikat means "to bind" in the Indonesian language. Once this is done, the yarns are dyed. Oftentimes, the bindings are altered to create a new pattern and the yarns are dyed yet again with another color. This process may be repeated many times to create elaborate, colorful patterns. Once the dyeing is complete, the bindings are removed and the yarns are woven into cloth. In contrast, for other resist-dyeing techniques such as tie-dye and batik, the resist is applied to the woven cloth rather than the yarns before they are woven into cloth. Since the surface design is imbued in the yarns rather than the finished cloth, both fabric faces display beautiful patterns in ikat works like this example.
Provenance: private Poos collection, Overland Park, Kansas, USA; purchased directly from the artist in 2010 - One of the largest privately held quilt and textile collections in the world, the Poos Collection has evolved over 50 years and through extensive travels to allow for original or point of source acquisition. The collection includes international textiles and garments with an emphasis on West African textiles such as adire, aso oke, kente, and ewe woven prestige cloths.
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Two of the embroidered medallions near the pockets are missing some threads, but this is very difficult to see. The ikat fabric is in overall excellent condition. Very well preserved given that it is more than 100 years old.