Yoruba Classic Aso Oke (3 of 3, contd): Alaari [Ondo Variation] – Tola Adenle

As I promised, I’m posting two wonderful pictures from a wedding day sent by someone I know to add to the collection on Alaari, one of the three classic Yoruba aso oke or ofi, which I recently had occasion to point out is a generic name – like aso oke – for all hand-woven Yoruba textiles.  Aso {‘A’ as in ‘apple’- so as in ‘shaw’ – is Yoruba word for “cloth” and “clothes” while oke, which, in its most straightforward or basic translation means “up” but when paired with aso means “loom”, a common sight in many homes of the past.

I believe the Ondo variety deserves a category of its own because it is very different from alaari from other areas.  In fact, it comes in many weaves and has more colors used in each cloth.  While most are basically red and beige or red/very pale yellow, the Egin of Ondo Town in the eponymous-named state have various colors, though never dominating the red, woven in their designs.

As already mentioned in the Sericulture essay, there are no more CLASSIC aso oke woven in silk although there are many wonderful silk MODERN aso oke out there these days.  They come in vibrant colors that are made possible by synthetic dyes.

The Ondo aso oke here, therefore, are woven with cotton thread but the fact does not detract from the artistry of weavers who come up with not just intricate designs but mixture of different hues to come up with eye-pleasing weaves.

In the above picture, a bride sparkles in Western outfit; ditto the Little Bride, and the parents are resplendent in an Ondo [town, as different from state

This is one of a variety of Alaari designs colors of which are greens and yellows as well as the basic red and cream/khaki/off white are used.

The mother’s gele – head wrap, and the father’s fila – cap – are not really Alaari but regular woven modern design that has complementary colars to the couple’s Alaari.  Such mixes and  matches are now quite common and add beautiful variations to aso oke, classic or modern.  She also ties a Western fabric as additional ipele/iborun on her wrapper in the same color scheme.  This is also NOT uncommon although a modern addition to the traditional wear.

She also wears tiny pearls and diamonds while the father stays traditional, topping his huge outfit with two strands of coral (iyun) beads (ileke) although it is described as ileke iyun.  Such is common for men at formal occasions like weddings, funeral ceremonies of OLDER family members.

The Little Bride and flower girls wear their hair in corn rows!

Bride’s parents during the Wedding Service.


Above is a variant of Ondo Alaari (not a classic but a modern interpretation) worn by blogger on 60th birthday while Dr. Adenle is dressed in modern Yoruba men’s wear.  The complete outfit for him is sewn from linen which he tops with the same Ondo Alaari for Fila.

Blogger wears 3-piece aso oke:  iro, iborun, gele – the same aso oke  is used for spouse’s fila while the buba  is sewn  from imported silk fabric.

This subject remains permanently open and from time to time, I will post new pictures as they become available. 

I thank the many readers who have viewed and read the various essays/pictures on Sanyan, Etu and Alaari these past few weeks and I look forward to comments and/or additions that others can benefit from.  The clothes have generated unprecedented readership numbers to this Blog.

Readers should remember that mine is not an academic work even though the contributions by great scholars:  Ulli Beier, Roland Abiodun and John Pemberton III got me going.  As a reader, Mr. Ajipeya wrote a couple of weeks ago, serious researchers need to take up from where these tentative steps of mine end so that future generations could understand, for example as he suggested, the historical links between, say, the Nupes, Junkum and Idomas of Central Nigeria AND Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria;  the black classic, Etu as well as other patterns of aso oke, especially beautiful black and white mixes, are traditional to these ethnic groups.

POSTSCRIPT:  The Alaari Classic (3 of 3) can be checked out at:


UPDATED, May/June 2013: 

Above posted essay from September 2011 has now been updated, and as mentioned in more than one place on this blog, this Alaari has proved the most popular of the three even though it’s supposed to be Number Three.

As of today, it has been viewed by 795 blog visitors; Sanyan (Number One) has 511 and the “real” Alaari has 521; Etu that is supposed to be the least, and the last – Number Three – has 760!

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5 Comments on “Yoruba Classic Aso Oke (3 of 3, contd): Alaari [Ondo Variation] – Tola Adenle”


    Kudos to your efforts Dr Adenle – because of people of depth like yourself with a passion for what you do, I am assured of the longevity of our(Ondos) cultural legacy.High praises ! Wale Fawehinmi, Ph.D



    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear Dr. Fawehinmi,

      Better late than never goes the old adage, and you’d have to pardon me for not answering this earlier.

      I posted my swan song avout two years ago but promised to keep the blog open as it seems to attract a lot of traffic from Yorubas and non-Yorubas seeking information on many areas of our tradition, especially our world-renowned ASO OKE.

      I only look in once in a while but do NOT comment any longer on blog visitors’ comments and remarks. Yours hit a chord, and hence this short note.

      By the way, I recommend SAYING GOODBYE which you can find that essay at:

      I’m Ondo State by birth, from Iju in Akure N. L.G. but I’m Osun by marriage. And btw, we got married at St. Stephen’s, Oke Aluko, the 50th anniversary of which was last year.

      My regards,



    • emotan77 Says:

      No, I’m no scholar unless by osmosis as my Significant Other is a Dr. Adenle! I hold only a first degree. Thanks. T.Ad



  2. Joy Says:

    Very nice pictures



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