Like the scene at the biblical Tower of Babel, a typical Nigerian market is a theatre of diverse chattering tongues, whereas unlike the Tower, the diverse tongues join hands together to build a skyscraper through the strength of their cultural diversity so high that the world could see.
It’s another time of the year to celebrate the giant of mother Africa-Nigeria; a country united in her diversity. When searching for another synonym for Nigeria as a Linguistic term, the cliché “unity in diversity” is just the apt phrase to replace the word, because the country is a composite body of a people who are different in every aspect of life but bound in unity.
Nigeria is no doubt the most populous country in Africa, the seventh in the world, and the 3rd most culturally diverse country in the world according to popular international rankings. The country is a home of over 500 distinct linguistic boundaries with three major ones; Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo.
The Amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates by the country’s colonial master in 1914 birthed the nomenclature Nigeria and has thence being an abode of a culturally diverse group of people. Since her independence in 1960, the place of culture in Nigeria has been massively reconstructed and thenceforth took the center stage in the governance of the country.
Varying from language to cuisine, from religious beliefs to traditions, from medicine to sport, from rites to norms, from dance to music and to parades of colorful fashion attires , the country is widely illustrated with the conspicuous display of diverse cultural heritage.
Needless to emphasize, fashion-in which dressing is a major component of, is a cultural heritage of any given people. It is suffice to say that Nigeria with over 250 ethnic groups has well over 250 distinct cultural styles of dressing. Hence, it is safe to call the country a home of fashion.
There are basically three major tribes in Nigeria; Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, with each of them having distinct traditional clothing styles. The Yoruba men have a variety of combinations like the Agbada (flowing overall), Bùbá/Esiki/Sapara (Shirt) and Kèmbè/Gbáanu/Sóóró (pants) which can be paired as occasion demands on colorful caps made in Gobi or Abetí-ajá. The beautiful Yoruba women also have different types of dresses. The most commonly worn are Ìró (wrapper) and Bùbá (blouse–like loose top), with a matching Gèlè (head gear). Just as the cap (Fìlà) is important to men, women’s dressing is considered incomplete without a head wrap. Apart from this, they also have ìborùn/ipèlé (shawl) which are long pieces of fabric that usually hang on the left shoulder and stretch from the hind of the body to the fore.
The men in the traditional Igbo tribe of Nigeria wear Isiagu (a shirt with large lion heads, crowns or other symbols), wide-legged trousers or wrappers with caps such as Okpu Agu, the famous red hat & eagle feather and many others. The mostly fair skinned rounded Igbo women wear George & lace tops, Igbankwu, Akwocha etc. A distinct highlight of an Igbo woman’s dress look is the elegant blouse with pretty puffed sleeves and embroidery on clothing with 2 wrappers and scarf.
Hausa/Fulani men traditionally wear large flowing gowns called Babariga with robes called Jalabiya. These clothes usually have elaborate embroidery around the neck. Men also wear either Tuareg-style turbans or embroidered caps (Hula). Their beautiful women wear traditional outfits made into RigadaZani that are made out of colorful patterned Ankara print fabrics, paired on matching blouses, head ties and shawls with beautiful body paint ornaments.
As a symbol of unity, the diverse dressing styles that abound in Nigeria have united the country and made Nigerians see themselves as one, as one could barely not find another ethnic cultural dress in the wardrobe of a typical average Nigerian. Top amongst it is the aesthetically pleasing Aso-Oke fabrics that is beautifully represented in majorly all tribes.
Happy 61st Independence 🇳🇬