late 1800s–by 1910
Cotton, silk, and indigo
Overall: 120 x 226 cm (47 1/4 x 89 in.)
Alma Kroeger Fund 2013.6
Its owner's movements would have revealed a flash of magenta silk (an expensive trade good) along the hem of this riga, emphasizing his high status.
Elite Nigerian men wore voluminous status garments variously called riga (Hausa), agbádá (Yorùbá), boubou (French), or mbubb (Wolof). Punctuated with white silk, this strip-woven riga’s inky blue was achieved by repeatedly dipping threads into indigo dye before weaving them. Embroiderers were often skilled Arabic calligraphers; the motifs here once had protective Islamic symbolism. The front pocket features the pointed “eight knives” (aska takwas) and a leaf (gambiya) associated with the Nupe peoples. At back, a spiral leads the wearer toward God. Magenta silk imported via trans-Saharan routes lines the hem. Rigan historically held transcultural appeal; today, they are pan-Nigerian male national dress.
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