O le ku! – The more things change, the more they remain the same, And Modern Uses for Aso Oke

p14696_138050_1_re_o-le-ku-1970sPhotograph:  Depo Adenle, Greenbelt, Md. 1974

The Blogger, student days, Washington, D.C., the Early 70s. What better way to enjoy the Washington Post on a lazy  Sunday, especially with 1-pc furniture living room, and dinosaur-age Yellow Pages of the Washington Metro as floor cushion!

p14696_138048_1_re_o-le-ku-1978Photograph:  Depo Adenle, Ibadan, 1976

And back in Nigeria in the mid-70s at a Church wedding, wrapper length hidden.  The Blogger, photographed by Depo Adenle.

I’ve promised the Yoruba aso oke for quite a while but somehow, I could not work those old boxes of clutter to sort photograph albums and packages.  While sorting some stuff in the last couple of months, my Significant Other came up with quite a few gems, including above pictures taken in non-aso oke Yoruba styles.  Buba/iro are definitely out of the modern playbook – Oleku – which we oldies but goodies still write with the pronoun, verb & adjective separately:  O le ku, but in whatever grammatical arrangement, it was and remains a very wow style, is it not!

The rage right now with young women is “Oleku”, a word I had to read twice before I had an idea of what was meant!  Back in its re-incarnation in the 70s, it had no fancy name, just simple iro and buba as we had always known the style but first, the meaning of O le ku! meaning “this is something else” or “isn’t this something!”  I used “re-incarnation” because I have seen old, old pictures of the style – at least the top, not the wrapper.

Now, before the new fad, – igba  l’o de – you may wish to check out “fads … http://emotanafricana.com/2011/11/23/fads-fashions-classics/

Young women – not only in Yorubaland – but all over Nigeria have given a more than worthy successor to the old fad.

AND FOR THE GLORIOUS REINCARNATION, I turn to Bella Naija, THE arbiter of whatever fashion is in vogue in Nigeria, especially among young women.  As the saying goes, “oleku”,  that is “O le ku!” “is reigning” right now!



Culled from Bella Naija, 2012.

Aren’t the young ladies smashing in these colorful red aso ebi colors, especially the two in O le ku! [Top, middle & Bottom, right, buba, only]!

Postscripts: 1.   “jawu” is formed from ja -to break or cut – owu – thread, signifying the break in continuous weave in the loom.

In correct Yoruba grammar, it would be written as ja ‘wu but it’s long been known as jawu, and the abbreviation is now one of many modern Yoruba words that are shortened and joined as single words without showing what would make the words easier to understand.

TOLA, Surrey, December 6, 2012.

UPDATED:  June 1, 2013

Modern uses for Aso Oke

Aso Oke of various weaves – thin traditional; broad Okene-Igbirra and old Yoruba upright wide-woven types – are being used in various forms and for various occasions.  Those will be posted here from time to time to show how the Yoruba, especially the women, have adapted the hand-woven textiles to modern usage.

I am starting it off with the appearance of two different aso oke worn by three people at a ceremony to mark a landmark birthday in 2012, a 70th.

p14696_138206_1_re_depoayotolaBlogger with her sister, Ayo, and Dr. Adenle at 70th birthday, May 2012.  The wide-loom Okene-Igbirra-type Aso Oke may be a red but it’s not Alaari and used to be woven not only by Yoruba women on upright looms of Yorubaland who wove wide aso oke, to produce two or three pieces wide enough for an iro (wrapper) but also by the Igbirra of modern-day Kogi State in Central Nigeria.  There are now set-ups in Yoruba big towns and cities, especially Lagos where these vibrant colors are turned out.

The birthday Girl wears manufactured lacy fabrics made into iro & buba which is a popular wear.  The aso oke gele & iborun complete her outfit.

Both Aso Oke are woven with modern silk thread.  They are easier to tie as gele and are adaptable as shawls as can be seen with the Western outfit on which it drapes nicely.

SAME DRESSING BY BLOGGER had been worn earlier for family portraits for Christmas, 2011; the shawl shows better.


To make a shawl and fila as above, I  purchased a set (two pieces) – as if for gele & iborun so that I could have fila sewn for the man.  I had so much left that I made two fila and kept the rest.  A narrow portion for fila cannot be cut from a piece because they are woven with selvedge or selvage, and cutting would ruin the whole piece.  To make fila for your guy for his-and-hers look, buy two pieces as I did but if for gele & iborun, you may need to buy two sets which will give you four pieces as they are not usually sold singly.


Aso oke in modern vibrant hues woven in narrow strips. Blogger with Sister-in-law, a celebrant, at a family event. Iju, Akure, North, August 3, 2013.


Since the Okene/Igbirra and Yoruba upright loom types of hand-woven cloths were traditionally woven large, the outfits that are turning these out in vibrant modern hues have kept up  the tradition of weaving with wide looms.   To make the kind of duvet covers displayed below, eight single pieces were used for a king size and the two pillow cases.  The adire (tie/dye) adds a dash of texture!

Tarkwa duvet cover

Courtesy:  Comfort & Samuel:                http://shop.comfortandsamuel.com/product/tarkwa-duvet-cover

A duvet cover plus two king size pillow cases were made with 1 complete t’oko t’aya set which, as the name implies, enough fabrics for the groom’s complete outfit as well as the bride’s.  A splash of adire – tie/dye – adds to the drama of this modern use of aso oke as bedding furnishing.


A black and peach silk combination weave here.  And a game of Ayo before bedtime???  Interesting!


Note the jawu – remember the holes created by leaving gaps in the thread-laying stage of weaving – in this folded pillow case.

ayoSlipper_BlueStripeAnd shoe-topper in blue & white modern aso oke

All the above are courtesy comfortandsamuel.com

In actual fact, many of the t’oko t’aya outfits that come in dramatic weaves and hues and are now very popular with brides and grooms as engagement aso oke are ALL products of these looms.

I will post more pictures as as I can lay my hands on them; readers can also forward pictures. [Tola, June 1, 2013]

Harvest BenchFINAL

[Credit:  Depo Adenle]

Above also belongs here although it was first posted back in 2011 in:


It’s another use of aso oke.  It was an old inherited item.  This modern use lets the old piece continue the tradition of “cloth wears to shreds” – Ulli Beier which Yoruba aso oke are supposed to be/to do: they pass from generation to generation!  Again, I refer readers to above essay on fads …

As always, I am appealing to readers to contribute to this collection if you have anything that can go here.

USA, TOLA, June 1, 2013.


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5 Comments on “O le ku! – The more things change, the more they remain the same, And Modern Uses for Aso Oke”

  1. emotan77 Says:

    From my Mail Box:

    My reservations are for the term not for the style as the latter swims along the tide of time which it would be foolhardy to try and stop by anyone least of all tao..



    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear Tao,

      Thanks for this.

      There’s nothing foolhardy in demanding our best in things we do and/or participate in. Just two days ago, a reader wondered why there are no “Likes” shown in the story about the unemployed bus driver as he would have checked the mark to which I replied I had resisted it from the beginning and that I always disable it on every essay posted.

      My explanation to the reader and others who will read it is: if they like it, why not send comments? I wrote that I would change it henceforth which I have been doing.

      I really do have problems with many of these new let’s-get-it-over-quickly approach to life and living but what do we do?

      Your position is better understood and appreciated.

      Sincere regards,



  2. emotan77 Says:

    Dear Tao,

    Thanks for this very noteworthy comment.

    I think you, myself and, perhaps most of our generation – not unexpected – think alike! When I first heard the term as can be implied from the notes I wrote on the style, it was not attractive to me, to put it elegantly.

    Sorry, Tao, you lose me on this one because I feel we must make accommodation on this one!

    Believe me, that category took me several takes to rework as I tried to find a place for the term “O le ku!” in the Category Title without it dominating, fat chance! Then I tried to eliminate it, did so, posted it past midnight U.S. time and very early going for Nigeria and the UK – my most active markets, so to say. I then went to google and posted the words of the new category; the essay did not show up.

    Then, I went for “Oleku” aso oke, and, seemingly amidst a sea of “oleku”, there it was in Number 5 on Page 1,

    Yoruba modern aso oke O le ku (“Oleku
    About Blogger, Emotan · Africa · Arts & Culture · Aso oke for every age in every age

    where the google listing managed to include other blog items.

    In Number 6 was –

    Nigerian wedding oleku aso-ebi styles |
    Engagement · Yoruba Brides · Aso Oke & Jewelry · Aso-Oke Colors … Nigerian wedding oleku aso-ebi styles. 0. Posted January 28, 2013

    which belongs to another site.

    Tao, you, me – and millions from the Age of the Dinosaur [of Information, that is] cannot remain purists in this matter – it’s tough for me, too, but this blog keeps pulling me, telling me it’s about what kids do not find difficult to accept called “search engines”; tag your copies generously and tantalizingly enough and they will attract readers.

    And of what use is writing that is not read by others?

    As a one-time journalist, it’s probably easier for me to swallow than perhaps others of the old school because you learn before starting the career – as those who study journalism must do in college or discover as those like me who learnt on the job – that a good title gets readers. I believe that’s the premise that drives a material high on google or any search engine.

    And hei, you are familiar with the English ways: the language, culture, etcetera, and you know that despite the purists’ traditionally stuck-in-the-mud attitude, the English Language has had to bow to many modernity that would make their ancestors turn in their gilded graves. “Rap” is no longer ‘a criminal record’, or any of the many staid definitions of the word in Oxford English Dictionary. How about –

    …a type of rap music featuring aggressive macho lyrics, often with reference to gang violence…

    I’ll share yours and this with readers.

    Thanks for always looking deeper than the surface into these essays.

    You have my best regards,



  3. emotan77 Says:

    From my tolaadenle@emotanafricana.com Mail Box:

    We can’t stop street language and slang creeping into history and communication. We however must in the name of intellectual rigour and cultural dignity separate them from the management and development of a people’s history. I would plead for a reassessment of the term (O le ku )as category or vehicle for preserving or conveying the Yoruba contribution to textile technology.tao



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