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THE AFRICAN BOUBOU - ORIGIN AND MEANING

Posted by Florian Cheval on

THE AFRICAN BOUBOU - ORIGIN AND MEANING

Yesterday I wore my ūüĎČ green boubou¬†with intricate gold embroidery on the front for a special African celebration. To say I looked like royalty is simply an understatement. I looked majestic! So, to begin with, you might ask me what a boubou is? In this article, we will take the time to explain what it is and how this magnificent garment came to be.

WHAT IS AN AFRICAN BOUBOU?

Well, a boubou (or bubu, or grand boubou, or grand bubu) is an African garment worn by both men and women throughout much of West Africa and in certain parts of central Africa . Its name comes from the term Mbubb which means wide clothing in Wolof.

The boubou is worn by both men and women and is made from several loincloths (the loincloth being a very large piece of fabric measuring between 2.10 m / 1.80 m). This lovely african tunic is sewn by tailors according to the tastes and preferences of customers and is made in " kitenge ". Most often embroidered, the trends of this garment are constantly changing, as are the textiles and patterns.

ORIGIN OF AFRICAN BOUBOU

Imbued with symbolic meaning, the boubou originated among indigenous groups in West Africa in the eighth century, and most likely increased in use and popularity with the rise of Islamic empires from the eleventh century. The boubou is a draped garment with wide sleeves, historically worn by men. The cloth was woven into strips and cut for the neck opening. It was professionally dyed, and heavily embroidered by religious scholars and artisans as a sign of prestige.

With the Islamic empires taking control of the region, especially after the 15th century, the Muslim clothing , such as kaftan , became synonymous with power and gave rise to spin-off styles that are worn today by men and women of different faiths. Historically, boubous were commissioned for wealthy patrons, as their ability to afford fabrics and excessive embroidery around the neck, chest and back gave them a high rank in the society. They are most often called mbubb in Wolof, agbada in Yoruba , riga in Hausa or boubou in French-speaking African countries .

WHAT MATERIAL ARE AFRICAN BOUBOUS MADE FROM?

Traditionally, materials consisted of expensive imported fibers and products, such as cotton , wool and silk , which were transported by Muslim and Asian merchants across the Sahara desert .

In the late 19th century, resistance-dyed textiles (ūüĎČ batik ) and Indonesian imitations were brought to West Africa by Dutch settlers. They are today known as ankara¬†Or¬†wax fabric . Just like textiles established in Africa, notably adire and adinkra fabrics.

Boubous are now printed industrially in manufacturing facilities, allowing for greater accessibility and better pricing. Juxtaposed with older, handmade examples, contemporary versions mimic the fluidity of the quality but are much lighter and thinner.

Similar textiles with different colors, patterns and materials are now produced and worn throughout West Africa, but also around the world where specific knowledge about the symbols is not known or poorly understood.

CENTRAL PIECE IN THE MAKING OF AN AFRICAN BOUBOU

The boubou generally consists of a maximum of three pieces: a long-sleeved shirt, pants with ties that narrow at the ankles, and a sleeveless dress with wide open seams worn over these two pieces.

The three pieces are usually the same color and were once made of silk, but today they are made of cotton or sometimes a synthetic fabric resembling silk. The set will be incomplete without a hat or a ūüĎČ ch√©chia¬†of any color.

The African boubou for women is distinguished from that of a man by the fact that it consists of two pieces: a wrapping at the bottom and a large overflowing robe to top it all off, and of course a African scarf . For women, clothing can be made up of other complementary elements including a shawl, a scarf or a blouse.

MEANING OF WEARING AN AFRICAN BOUBOU

The boubou is a formal outfit worn by both men and women. It is a sumptuous African garment generally linked to married couples , especially in African society because of his decency and his extraordinary charisma.

Modesty being a priority in African culture, it is believed that when someone decides to marry, their body is not only theirs but also that of their partner, hence the need to honor and honor it. respect. It is an intrinsic value that everyone must respect.

So it's no wonder it's designed to cover three-quarters of the body. Furthermore, in addition to being elegant, the boubou can be worn during formal and traditional ceremonies , such as religious services, funeral ceremonies, visits to elders, and festivals. A lot of value and respect is given to the women and men who wear it.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article about the African boubou. To find out more, we invite you to discover our collections of African boubous for men

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