'DRESS NIGERIA' FOR IDENTITY



BY IJEOMA EZEIKE


Has Nigeria, a land with limitless investment opportunities, distinguished herself worldwide in the area of cultural heritage? Sometimes, a people might not know the value of what they have until non-natives angle for possession. Thus, in view of our cultural diversity, little has been known about the nation’s dress culture. Wholesale assimilation of foreign dress culture by the society has made the local textile industry to crumble like a stack of cards. For instance, in India; the country’s cultural multiplicity have stood the test of time on the international scene and the dress culture is valued to the extent that it has contributed immensely to both their economic and fashion industry. A first time visitor to the country will certainly see the streets filled with female and male Indian nationals wearing their traditional attires in different colours and different designs. Their unique style of dress culture has greatly influenced Indian fashion in the world.




Chief Edem Duke

Here in Nigeria, we are still battling with the problem of incorporating and accepting our indigenous style of dressing. One major challenge facing the culture and tourism sector is non-active promotion of the nation’s cultural heritage and tourism potentials through identification, development and marketing of the diverse cultural and tourism potentials of which the present Culture, Tourism and National Orientation Minister, Chief Edem Duke started doing few months after assuming office.
At a recent workshop, organised by the ministry, participants from far and wide were on hand to feature in the “Dress Nigeria” exhibition show, which was put together as part of events proceedings. Various traditional fabrics, studded with precious stones and different sophisticated designs from diverse cultural backgrounds were displayed to the public. In his address, Edem Duke said the workshop is designed to enable people rub minds and jaw-jaw on how the nation’s dress culture could enhance the promotion of the indigenous fabrics leading to patronisation of the local fabrics by every Nigerian. He said the event is all about promoting cultural industries and the nation’s culture through the creativity of the fashion designers which, according to him, can take on competitors anywhere in the world.


“This is a clarion call on Nigerians to start looking inwards and not just adopt Nigerian designs and fabrics for work, but adopt it for general purpose”, he added. Duke said, “Dress Nigeria will help to give vivid expression to our patriotism and promotional efforts on our indigenous fabrics and styles. He also charged all present at the occasion to take advantage of the development opportunities being opened up by the creative industries by participating in the local market”.


In addition, NICO, a parastatal charged with the responsibility of harnessing the nation’s cultural heritage two years ago held a workshop tagged “promoting Nigerian dress culture for National Unity” which  had in attendance most of the major players all over the federation, the workshop observed that the Nigerian dress culture is gradually being eroded amongst the society and resolved that they would use the outcome of the event to sensitise the government on dress code based on the nation’s dresses, as a deliberate policy, as well as bailing out the comatose textiles industries in Nigeria financially with a view to producing Nigerian dresses at affordable prices


Speaking with Arts Lounge, Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, the Executive Secretary of National Institute for Cultural Orientation, NICO, said, “We have organised different workshops to re-orientate the citizens on our dress culture. In our office, every staff wears the local fabrics three times in a week”. Ayakoroma further revealed that recently in Malaysia, a staff of NICO was adjudged the best dressed participant in a workshop that drew people from Europe and other countries. Apparently, the man must have amazed other participants with his dress style that showcased the nation’s cultural heritage.


The Executive Secretary expressed optimism that the Federal Executive Council, FEC, will eventually approve “our memo asking that civil servants and public servants, even at the FEC level and legislative houses should ‘Dress Nigeria’ when they have sittings; that will surely promote the dress culture and textile industry. We expect that Nigeria will continue to patronise the fabric industry so the sector will bloom again”.


“Dress Nigeria Day” came into national discourse in 2010 when NICO submitted a memo at the 7th edition of the National Council Meeting on Tourism, requesting the council’s approval to institute a national dress code in public offices as a systematic approach to promoting our culture and national identity among civil servants. The memo is yet to be approved by the Federal Government. It is also pertinent to note that in spite of the inherent advantages culture brings to many other nations, it has not featured prominently in the development of our nation.






L-R   Renowned adire artist,Nike Okundayo Davies and Edem  Duke during the recent ‘Dress Nigeria’ show

Thus, there are a lot of things to benefit when indigenous dress culture is promoted; its contribution to the economic development of the country cannot be over emphasised. Local fabrics can be used in manufacturing bags, sandals and other items and thus empowering local communities.
In 1949, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto and premier of Northern Nigeria, had a vision for the industrialisation of the region. He established the Kano Textile Factory and the Kaduna Textile Mill in order to use the abundant cotton produced by farmers in the region. Kano became a textile marketing city and Kaduna also developed into a textile city as other factories, support services, such as the spinning and weaving industries, blossomed. Marketers of Kaduna who made textile materials, mainly African prints, carved a niche for themselves, selling these products locally and exporting to neighbouring countries. Sadly in the past decades, these textiles industries have collapsed.


There is urgent need to revive and sustain the local textile industry because of its potentials in re-awakening our culture. Central to our quest for cultural continuity is the need to restore and promote interest in cultural values which are continuously ebbed by the impacts of exposure to western norms and values. Orientation must be taken seriously and must be consistent and continuous if we are to improve our image and reputation as a nation. There is need for departments and units of tourism, culture and national orientation to beestablished in all the Local Governments Areas, LGAs, to coordinate cultural activities at the grassroots for an effective assimilation of dress culture by the society.


The challenge is to formulate and implement policies aimed at diversifying the economy and placing it on the path of sustainable growth and development with the additional task of re-orienting the people, imparting into them the need of accepting what we have and not alien cultures.


Therefore, there is an urgency to develop and reinforce our economic structure. For a nation like Nigeria which, over the past four decades, has been operating a mono-product economy, her tourism resources have the capacity and potential of serving as an alternative to oil and gas and also provide the much-needed economic boost.

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