Unexpected Luxury: Wild Silk Textile Production among the Yoruba of Nigeria

Mulberry silk produced in China is the type most recognized and used in silk garments. There are at least seven additional silk fiber sources. The Yoruba are a large ethnic group in Nigeria who use native silk that they call sányán from the Anaphe moth as one of their most prized fiber resources. Throughout colonial and post-colonial history, both Nigerians and others investigated methods for domesticating wild silk production. Yoruba strip cloth, called aso-òkè includes three main categories: sányán, etù and alãrì, each appropriate for persons of high social standing and for important occasions, displaying cultural significance. Cotton becomes used as a substitute for expensive silk yarns, being dyed the traditional color of the silk fabrics. To the Yoruba aesthetic, the purpose of something is more important than its actual form. Even as weavers now produce the traditionally sányán cloths with substitute fibers, the cloth’s glory remains.


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