Asoke cloth is crafted by the Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria and has been woven for hundreds of years in one form or another. Archaeological sites such as Ife reveal looms of great antiquity. The cloth is very sturdy and is mostly reserved for religious rituals, funerals, and very formal occasions. A favorite wedding garment for a groom is the agbada, a tunic or robe created from asoke fabric.
Originally, the pieces were either deep indigo, a natural beige silk, or an imported magenta silk weave. Today, the strands of cotton, polyester, rayon, silk, lurex, and acrylic are all merged on narrow strip looms into long, thin pieces of fabric.
Traditionally, the weavers were men, but women have begun learning the trade as well. The strips are sewn together to create a piece of fabric unique from all others ever created. At times, an artist doesn’t have quite enough of one strip, and will add a totally different one to even things up. In yet more artistic whimsy, pieces may come hemmed, partially hemmed, or totally unhemmed. The open work, embroidery, shine, design, textures, and color work together for a textile unlike any other that is impressive and artistic.