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    Tuesday, 24 May 2016

    Kwara community comes alive with Aso-oke contest

    Residents of Ilorin East Local Government Area, Kwara State, watched in awe as young aso-oke weavers proved who was best and fastest in the trade, writes Adekunle Jimoh
    The colourful fabric is an instant head-turner but even the fine art of waving it proved to be a crowd-puller. In Okelele in Ilorin East Local Government Area of Kwara State people could not resist watching the making of the popular Aso-Oke.
    It was a remarkable day for the fabric as well as the youths who spun it in a contest. In 10 minutes, each contestant had to prove he was the best in the Aso-Oke weaving business. The competition took place at Alaro compound located in the precincts of Okelele, known to be the hub of Aso-Oke weaving.
    The event which started with an opening prayer by Alfa Alabidun, attracted a huge crowd.
    There were 10 contestants, each given about 10 minutes to prove their weaving skills, and indeed they gave a good account of themselves within the time.
    With locally-made weaving tools, there was a rhythmic twisting of legs and movement of hands. They wove with rapidity, creating a delightful spectacle for the crowd.
    Like any other community with a distinct culture and tradition, Ilorin, the state capital, is also a city with a difference. However, the uniqueness of the culture of Ilorin is seen in its economic hub.
    Ilorin is popular with some vocational skills, which in the olden days were used to measure its economic advancement and development.
    The concept of naming houses in the city was derived from the type of occupation or vocation the people living in those houses did. For instance, compounds like Ile-Onimago, Onikijapa, Onidilali, Asileke and Alaro among others, historically got those names from what their progenitors preoccupied themselves with.
    Weaving of local fabric otherwise known as “Aso-Oke” is an occupation known with some cities across the country including Ilorin. Specifically, weaving of local textile is very popular among Yoruba- and Igbo-speaking people.
    It is a clothing material with diverse styles and colours that lovers of locally made fabrics wear at ceremonies such as weddings, naming ceremonies, chieftaincy titles, house-warming and other prominent events.
    As a result of Nigerians’ insatiable appetite for foreign products including attires, the demand for Aso-Oke soon nose-dived. Those whose inherited the occupation abandoned the job for less profitable ones while a few of the    educated ones looked for elusive white collar jobs.
    Despite its threat of extinction of the Aso-Oke fabric, there are some areas in Ilorin city that cannot afford to let their long-time inheritance die.
    One of such areas is  Alaro compound, Okelele-Ojuekun area in the heart of Ilorin.
    The contest was initiated in 1992, but was halted a few years later due to the lull in the business.
    Speaking at the competition, Dr Abdulganiyu Salaudeen of Kwara State University, Malete, told the gathering that Aso-Oke weaving was a means of identity and source of foreign exchange.
    Clad in full Aso-Oke with shoes to match, the lecturer said the current efforts to strengthen the value of the naira could only materialise when locally made goods were prioritised and exported.
    Salaudeen, who teaches agriculture in the university, explained that the weaving profession is a source of social security that eliminates all forms of social ills and prevents youths from indulging in anti-social activities.
    He assured that his institution would support the revival of weaving in Ilorin in line with its community service mandate.
    Also speaking, Mr. Suleiman Okubiyi said weaving projected Ilorin community positively to the entire world, adding that the occupation was famous among the natives of Ede, Oyo, Iseyin in Yoruba land, Igbo and the people of Ilorin and Kogi State.
    A weaver at the event, Alhaji Suleiman Oba Machine said the resuscitation of the competition was a good omen for the people of Ilorin and encouraged the organisers to sustain it as an annual event.

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