Boubou

A sleeveless robe is called a boubou in Nigeria and Senegal. A boubou is worn by men over the top of long sleeved gowns or alone with loose trousers. Generally, boubou are long rectangular cloths with holes in the center. The boubou is worn with the head through the hole and the fabric draped to about mid-thigh level. Boubou can be dyed bright colors and decorated with embroidery, appliqued patterns, or beadwork.

Women wear a version of the boubou called a m'boubou. A m'boubou is a flowing dress that reaches to just about the ankle; its sewn side seams distinguish it from the male garment. Women wear m'boubous over wrapped skirts and shirts.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Blauer, Ettagale. African Elegance. New York: Rizzoli, 1999.

Kennett, Frances, and Caroline MacDonald-Haig. Ethnic Dress. New York: Facts on File, 1994.

Cotton

otton was woven in West Africa as early as the thirteenth century. Unlike the earlier handwoven cloths, cotton was woven on looms, frames used to interlace individual threads into fabric. These looms produced narrow strips of cloth that would be stitched together to form larger pieces of cloth. Typically, six to eight strips would be sewn together to form a dress or other garment. Like other cloths used by Africans, cotton was wrapped around the body to create many different styles of clothing, from toga-like dresses to turban headdresses.

An African man weaving cotton cloth with a wooden loom. Cotton cloth can be used to create different styles of clothing, from dresses to turbans. Reproduced by permission of© Earl & Nazima Kowall/CORBIS.

Different Styles Weaving Cloth

Patterns were applied to cotton in a variety of different ways. Finished cotton fabric was dyed with natural pigments to create bold whole color clothing, or individual threads were dyed before weaving so that geometric patterns could be woven directly into the fabric. People living in different regions preferred different colored dyes. Those living near the Gold Coast, along the shores of Ghana, preferred blue, while those in West Africa favored red. Mud and soap were also used to make patterns on cotton fabric.

A young boy wearing a robe made from the traditional bright-colored Kente cloth. Reproduced by permission of © Margaret Courtney-Clarke/CORBIS.

A young boy wearing a robe made from the traditional bright-colored Kente cloth. Reproduced by permission of © Margaret Courtney-Clarke/CORBIS.

Male Boubou Ghana

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Blauer, Ettagale. African Elegance. New York: Rizzoli, 1999.

Kennett, Frances, and Caroline MacDonald-Haig. Ethnic Dress. New York: Facts on File, 1994.

Starke, Barbara M., Lillian O. Holloman, and Barbara K Nordquist. African American Dress and Adornment: A Cultural Perspective. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1990.

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Responses

  • AMIE
    What fabric is boubou made out of?
    8 years ago

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