Style

'Aso Oke: The Woven Beauty,' Tunde Owolabi's New Exhibition In Lagos

Tunde Owolabi's 'Aso Oke - The Woven Beauty' is on display November 16th- 22nd at the Red Door Contemporary Art Gallery in Lagos.


If cotton is for comfort and viscose for drape, then Nigerian Aso Oke [ah-SHAW-okay] is for shakara. Originating from the Yoruba culture, Aso Oke is a handwoven textile that holds both cultural value and beauty. Traditionally worn for special occasions such as weddings or naming ceremonies, Aso Oke is a marker of Yoruba heritage that transcends Nigeria. From Monday, November 16th-22nd, at the Red Door Gallery in Lagos, Nigerian visual artist Tunde Owolabi will be showcasing the fabric at his second solo exhibition, Aso Oke - The Woven Beauty. Using Aso Oke as a tapestry of history and cultural heritage, Owolabi has created narratives through paintings, photography, sound and film installations, photo-painting, and mixed media to preserve one of the few surviving forms of textile designs left in Nigeria. Explains Owolabi:

“The reason I chose aso-oke is because of its cultural value and vibrancy. While learning about it, I realised there is more to the fabric. The dynamism with which it has evolved over time from the traditional type to the more modern aso-oke we see lately also got me interested. The process of making it alone is an art that leaves no gender out of the fun and experience. These days, weddings and other occasions are incomplete without aso-oke, and that shows the power and importance of this fabric. It was created by the Yoruba people of Nigeria for the world. I want to make people appreciate this fabric more, and see how much of an art it is. If we don’t celebrate what we have, no one will.”

Tunde Owolabi's Aso Oke - The Woven Beauty is on display Monday, November 16th through November 22nd at the Red Door Gallery in Lagos. Admission is free. See more photos from the exhibition below.

All photos credited to Tunde Owolabi

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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