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Archive for the ‘Yoruba Clothing’ Category

Nigerian physicians from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic gathered in Chicago this weekend for the 17th annual Association of Nigerians Physicians in the Americas (ANPA) convention. Thanks to one of North of Lagos’s followers, I received a special invitation to write a story on this high-profile, yet greatly unknown event.

So excited to be surrounded by Nigerians again, I hastily put together a casual, Nigerian fabric influenced outfit and headed to the Swissotel in Chicago on Friday to talk to physicians and hear the speakers. I descended the escalator to see about 100 people dressed in business attire mingling around the coffee. The one or two men dressed in agbadas indicated that this indeed was the ANPA conference. Chris Eze, the physician who invited me, was there to welcome and introduce me to some of the most important players in the Association. Nigerians from every ethnic group are members of the association, so for me the convention was a good test of how well I can discern ethnic groups. It also made me realize I really should learn Igbo.

In the next week I will post stories about the interviews I had and issues that came up. Today, I want to post pictures of the party that ended the weekend–the ANPA gala. I was delighted to attend the party on Saturday night and see how Nigerians in the Americas are still so fashionable in the finest lace. Just because they live in America does not mean they have lost that Naija swagger, especially on the dance floor.

Chris Eze, one of my blog followers and a member of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, invited me to their 17th annual convention in Chicago.

Walking around to take pictures of the event, these ladies stopped me because they heard I spoke Yoruba.

My table mates and their friend. She must be important because her gele is the tallest and shiniest I've ever seen.

The packed dance floor at ANPA's 17th annual convention at the Swissotel in Chicago.

Me with the younger crowd, a couple of medical students in the Distinguished Nigerian Physicians of Tomorrow.

These Yoruba ladies were so nice. They beckoned me over to their table and before it we were all dancing together on the dance floor.

Lace iro and bubas with stiff, shiny head wrappers. Gorgeous!

Oji and I, the president of the Distinguished Nigerian Physicians of Tomorrow.

Aso ebi. Everyone was dressed in their fanciest lace that night.

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As the fateful day the Oyinbo’s will leave Nigeria draws nearer and nearer, the number of send forth parties gets higher and higher. Our Yoruba Flagship Center hosted a party for us on Wednesday. The party was a typical Yoruba function with a high table with distinguished guests, lots of prayers and people who spoke on forever about the importance of speaking Yoruba. Kayode and I gave short speeches in Yoruba and the five of us even sang a song that went :
O digba, O dabo
Ki Olorin sho pade o
Ka rira pe layo
Ka maa ma sunkun ara wa

The five of us, Kolade, Akinwumi, Me, Kayode and Abike all in our traditional Yoruba outfits


An incredible cultural troupe from Ibadan performed astonishing bata dances and Kayode joined in with his own Yoruba drums.

People told us a local television station broadcast the party on TV but unfortunately-like all of my prior television appearances here- I never catch them.

The send forth parties still continue in a non-formal setting with us and our Nigerian friends. Saying goodbye is a long process here because I am bombarded with questions from random people such as: Will you take me back to your country with you? When are you coming back? The prior question I get almost everyday. I have started giving responses like “No, because I am not a customs official and cannot give you a visa,” or “I can take you if you can fit in my luggage.” And to the latter question, I simply say “Mi i ni pe/I will not be long.”
Here I am making a speech to the crowd in Yoruba.

The crowd at our first send forth party sponsored by our program, the Yoruba Language Flagship center

Kayode in his Yoruba dress, an agbada made of guinea and a fila.

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We weren’t exactly sure why we were there. The five of us sat with straight faces and glassy eyes around the shiny conference table, listening to the voice of the CNN reporter discuss the implications the natural disaster in Japan will have on the electronics market. We were tired–Oyinbos dislike waking up at 5:30 a.m. All we knew was we had arrived at the girls’ college in Ikeja, Lagos to do some sort of speech that required us to wear Yoruba outfits. Finally a Madame entered, wearing a lovely collared shirt, black skirt and high-waisted belt-a stark contrast to our brightly colored long ankara outfits. She hugged each of us, told me she loved my latest video on YouTube and passed out the programs for the day. This woman turned out to be the director of Vivian Fowler, Mrs. Funke Amba. After that day, I now refer to her as Aunty Funke.

Yoruba Day sign

Yoruba Day at Vivian Fowler and we are the special guests.


Thursday, March 17, 2011 was deemed Yoruba Day at Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls–a day for us, the Yoruba speaking Oyinbos, to plant a little seed of shame, amazement and most of all motivation in the hearts of ajebota secondary school children who don’t care to speak their native language. Yoruba Day started with giving us a tour of campus. Once you enter through the main gate, just past the hedge trimmed to spell V-i-v-i-a-n-F-o-w-l-e-r, you cast your eyes upon a impeccably kept courtyard with more impressive bush shapes–a horse, a man and woman are among the bush figures. The tour, led all in Yoruba on Yoruba Day of course, brought us to the fully stocked chemistry labs, home economics rooms, art gallery full of works of students’ art, a full court basketball court, and the peaceful, sparkling library with an impressive collection of worldly books. I was impressed. Students in tidy, well ironed light orange and blue uniforms greeted us politely in English as we roamed the campus. Any child would be lucky to go to a school like Vivian Fowler.

The program started like all Yoruba events, introducing the important guests. Among them were very important people in education in Lagos State, the King of Lagos’ chiefs, and us! We sat on couches on either side of the stage-boys on one side, girls on the other-covered in adire cloth and stood up to wave to the audience when they introduced each of us. We heard speeches from University of Ife Professor Wale Omole, one of the king’s chiefs and Mrs. F.O. Erogbogbo, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education in Lagos state. After a few interludes of Yoruba entertainment we heard speeches from students from each of the secondary schools present. When it was our turn to speak I was nervous, as usual. I wanted to make a comprehensive speech that not only impressed people, but also conveyed a serious message to the students about reviving their native language. I started by going down on my knees to greet everyone, a proper Yoruba greeting. I spoke about our experience in University of Ibadan and how we really shock people when they hear Yoruba come out of our mouths, but they still speak English back to us. I told them that they should use us Yoruba speaking white people as an ipenija, challenge. N ko fe ki oju ti won, mo fe fun won ni imisi lati ko Yoruba sii. I told them to watch Mainframe movies, listen to singers like Asa where they can hear ijinle Yoruba. They can also read books, but sometimes Yoruba books can be very difficult to get through (I’m reading ‘Alo Ijapa’ right now and it can be hard for me to fully understand at moments.) I think I spoke well for not having any time to prepare or practice. I left the stage feeling pleased, like I said something that might actually ignite a fire in some of the students’ hearts for the Yoruba language.

The event went smoothly, as to be expected from such a fine school like Vivian Fowler. Mrs. Funke Amba, the director of the school, organized event after seeing us in the Punch newspaper and saw that it did not fall victim to too much Africa time. They gave us beautiful cloth as gifts (adire for the girls and guinea for the boys). After the program we moved outside where we stood in one spot smiling for almost an hour while groups of students and adults filtered through and clicked obscene amounts of pictures. All the while, journalists and camera crews stood by desperately trying to interview us. I felt a little like an animal in a zoo, but it was all for a good cause. Right before we got in the car to leave, a young girl, she must have been no older than 12 ran up to me and asked, “can I hug you?” She wrapped her hands around my waist, pressed her head into my chest and gave me the tightest hug. Hopefully that’s a sign we got through to them.

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Nigerians–particularly Yorubas–love to celebrate. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals are all occasions for huge parties complete with plenty of food, deafening music, matching decorations that extend to the smallest details and all sorts of fanfare. An intimate dinner or cocktail party among friends doesn’t align with Nigerian culture. The bigger the better for the Nigerian party. Lucky for the sociable type these parties happen often, maybe too often. The average Nigerian adult has attended hundreds of weddings. While each of the aforementioned celebrations have qualities that make it unique, they all share a common order of events. They all start with an opening prayer. The MC then introduces the important guests seated at the high table. Caterers pass out a plethora of drinks (juice, minerals, malt beverages, bottles of wine, beer and everyone gets a bottle of water) and plates of food (usually rice with moinmoin and meat, or iyan egusi, or amala) to each guest. Then the celebrant dances while family and friends spray him or her with money. The celebrant’s friends stand around to pick up the 50, 100, 200, 500 Naira notes that fall by the celebrant’s feet. Then the MC or someone else gives a closing prayer, guests collect their gifts and go home with full stomachs and poorer hearing than they arrived with.

wedding decorations in Nigeria

An example of a brown and orange color scheme at a wedding party I attended. Bottles of minerals, boxes of juice abundant on every table.


So it went at the traditional Yoruba wedding I attended last weekend. People call this wedding the engagement. The church ceremony followed by a big party is the wedding party. So I celebrated the marriage of Esther and ‘Tosin in the traditional Yoruba style that has been a bit modernized by the imposing presence of microphones and photographers. While studying Yorùbá at University of Wisconsin, I happened to choose marriage among the Yoruba as a research paper topic and I am posting the 20-page paper I wrote, all in Yoruba of course, for any Yoruba readers to see if they are interested. I think the wedding will be best described by the photos I took.
Marriage among the Yorubas (part 1 of 2)
Marriage among the Yorubas (part 2 of 2)

guests at a Yoruba engagement

Guests at the engagement sit under tents out of the hot sun, chatting, eating and drinking. Everyone is dressed in native Yoruba attire, iro, buba and gele around the head for the woman, and buba with sokoto for the man. The guests at the engagement will be fewer than the guests at the wedding party.

yoruba wedding bride walking down the aisle

The bride and her friends walking her down the aisle, singing and dancing the whole time.

Yoruba wedding the groom waits for the bride coming down the aisle

As the bride walks down the aisle with her friends, the husband sits under the beautifully decorated canopy waiting for his wife to greet him.

Photographers don't miss any facial expression at Nigerian parties. They are always in the celebrants faces taking way more pictures than needed. Here the bride and her entourage walks her down the aisle. The women dressed in cream and red are in her bridal party.

Yoruba bride and groom with groom's family

The bride and groom, oko and iyawo, pose with the groom's family. At a Yoruba wedding, everyone in the groom's family wears the same color cloth. The same goes for the bride's family. These colors are different to differentiate the two families that are coming together through marriage. According to Yoruba beliefs, marriage is not just between two people, but two families.


women playing sekere at a yoruba wedding

Women playing a traditional Yoruba instrument called the Shekere as the bride dances her way to greet her husband.


dowry at a yoruba wedding

The dowry displayed for all the guests to see. The groom's family gives the bride and her family many gifts for the marriage. Here we see yams, bananas, other food stuffs and oil. The bride's family is seated on the right. The bride and groom's family sit on opposite sides of the aisle.

esther dancing getting sprayed

Esther, the bride, dancing with her new husband, 'Tosin. Fifty Naira notes fall in her arms from the Nigerian tradition of spraying money on the celebrants.

Yoruba women in aso ebi on the husbands side

Member's of the groom's party dressed in aso ebi (see earlier post for description). They are wearing a buba (the shirt), iro (the wrapper skirt) and a gele (head wrapper).


closing prayer at a yoruba wedding

One of the bride's maids praying for the new couple.

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