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Akwete Cloth Weaving in Ukwa East LGA

Abia State Akwete, Abia, Nigeria

Akwete cloth is made from Ukwa East Local Government Area, Abia state, Nigeria. Towns where these traditional industries are located comprises the following towns and villages – Ndoki of Abia State sharing common boundaries with Ndoki, Ijo and Ogoni of River state as a cluster of weaving communities. Towns in Asa include Umunteke, Ohuchu, Mkporobo, Umuebulungwa and Owo. Ndoki prominent towns are Akwete, Ohanso, Obunku, Ohambele, Obeaku and Obohia. Ndoki in River State has many towns among which Umuagbai is most prominent. In Umuagbai-Ndoki – River state, cloth weaving is called “Akuruaku” (Ekeke 2007), while in Ndoki – Abia state; it is called “Akwete” or “Aruru” meaning something woven.

According to Jones, quoted in Afigbo (1985), the colonial officers in Nigeria during the colonial era raised a controversial question in Ukwa clan on why the weaving is called Akwete instead of Ndoki cloth. Considering the fact that Akwete town is one of the six towns mentioned in Ukwa local government area known for cloth weaving. Afigbo (1985) pointed out that the exclusive reason was that Akwete people among other towns mentioned in Ukwa Local Government Area takes weaving as their major occupation while others combined weaving with farming. According to Afigbo (1985): The weaving tradition now associated exclusively with Akwete is the common heritage of the clan, that the socalled Akwete cloth was not and is not woven only by the Akwete and, therefore, that the proper name of the product should be Ndoki cloth. More of it is woven at Akwete, they concede, but this is because the Akwete, being “lazy”, have abandoned farming and concentrated on the relatively easier occupation of cloth weaving (1985:11).


Akwete was projected into the global community by scholars through their contact with the colonial masters. The traditional technology is believed to be an indigenous practice known to the people of Igboland. Emphasis was drawn from Igbo-Ukwu archaeological discovering in 1938 by Isaiah Anozie who stumbled upon colourful regalia and other artifacts during the process of digging for a water cistern in his compound. The discovery made the Federal Department of Antiquities, now Federal Commission for Museums and Monuments, to authorized thorough investigation of the discovery in 1959. In 1964-65, Thurstan Shaw was invited by the commission to carry out excavation at the site. In 1970 and 1977, Shaw published his findings among which colourful materials (regalia) were discovered. Shaw’s finds were subjected to radiocarbon and the area dated around 9th century A.D. The discovering of textile at Igbo-Ukwu was correlated with Akwete indigenous weaving materials. Weaving technology is not only peculiar to Akwete women in Abia State, it is also found among Umuagbai women in River state, Nsukka women in Enugu state, Abakiliki women in Eboyi State, the Tiv people of Benue State among other western Nigerian women. Others are the Iseyin, Saki and Owo people of the Yoruba land. In other West African Countries, such as Dahomy and Abomey kingdons in Cameroun, Asante in Ghana and Volta region in Upper Volta, weaving technology flourishes. Surprisingly, these West African Countries affiliated clothes weaving mainly to male counter parts (Lambs, 1975). But weaving is a noble profession for women in southern Nigeria especially in Akwete. Although in Benue State, precisely among the Tivs speaking communities, weaving are associated with males (Lambs and Holmes, 1980). The making of cloth did not need a special education. It is simply by constant participation and observation from a young lady to an older lady or from the apprentices to the master. The Akwete town experiences tropical climatic condition with alternating dry and wet seasons as the two main seasons in Nigeria. Its major river is a tributary of Azumili Blue River and other minor streams, with abundant mangrove vegetation as well as palm trees and raffia palm. This is the very reason why weaving flourished in this town and its environs because the loom and its accessories for weaving were generated locally from the raffia palm. Therefore, raffia palm is a veritable raw material used not only for weaving, but for construction and edible liquor and palm wine tapping (palm wine is processed into the local gin called ‘kaikai’) (Ekeke, 2007; Tuley, 1965; and Ikegwu, 2010).


Sources; Ikegwu Jacinta Uchenna & Uzuegbu Joshua Okenwa, Academia.edu

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