Man's robe (dandogo)

CULTURE:
Hausa peoples
DATE:
20th century
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General Description

Elaborately embroidered and voluminous men's robes made of handwoven strips of cotton are distributed widely throughout Cameroon and Nigeria. This type of robe derives from the Hausa dangogo or "riding robe," so called because of the vertical slitlike openings that allowed the wearer to hold the reins in his hands. Embroidered with Islamic patterns, it was introduced to the area with the southerly spread of Islam from northern Nigeria in the 19th century. While not all who encountered Islam converted to the religion, many people would adopt the robe. In the southern areas where the environment could not support horses, the robe was modified to include pockets.

Making this type of robe requires the skills of spinners, dyers, weavers, tailors, and embroiders. It is intentionally large so the man wearing it appears larger than normal, thereby projecting an image of prosperity and power. Now designated the national dress of Nigerian men, it is worn on formal occasions, traditional ceremonies (such as weddings, baby-naming events, milestone birthdays), and funeral celebrations. The dandogo has also become a symbol of African identity and pride within Africa and the African diaspora.

This robe was collected in a Hausa enclave in the Gandura region of Cameroon. The wide sleeves are lined with red and white cotton strip cloth. Pinstriped strips flank a dramatic red, white, and blue warp stripe. The blue and white "bleeding" effect is achieved by tying and dyeing the yarns before they were woven. This dyeing technique, known as ikat, has not been practiced by Hausa dyers since the 1970s.

Adapted from

Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 252-253.

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