Yoruba Prestige Shirt
The Yoruba peoples of Nigeria were one of the most urbanized African nations in pre-colonial times. Their love of art and craft make them a particularly interesting African group to study. Just like many other cultures, the Yoruba people dressed their high standing officials in the best of materials. For the Yoruba, these materials included fine cloths that may have been bought from tradesmen, colorful beads, red coral (a sign of wealth), and, of course, cowrie shells (a form of money in some cultures).

Within Yoruba culture, the practice of elaborate shirts worn by the prominent men of the village seems to be one of the most important aspects of their heritage. Not only do these shirts tell the story of the royal family member, but they also tell the story of the culture's history. Some of the most common iconographic images present are the cock and other birds (a sign of power), leopards (a sign of the land), and various images of masks that may or may not represent the primordial ancestors. The creation of these intensely detailed and complex shirts could take any where from a few days to a few months. No section is left undecorated. As in most African art the use of asymmetric, the balancing of images or designs to create an equal pattern, is an important aspect of their pieces, the use of asymmetrical alignment of their designs was an important aspect of their culture. (KR)

Yoruba Royal Shirt c. Early 20th Century Mixed medium, dyed cloth, shells and beads Click Here for another shirt
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