British Explorer Stunned by ‘Igbo-made’ European Cloths in 1854

The Igbos were described as the most imitative and emulative ethnic group in Africa by anthropologists, ethnographers, and explorers in the early 1800s. In other words, they only need to see something once or a few times; they will quickly learn and reproduce it. Today, people use such words as Aba-made or Onitsha-made, Igbo-made to describe the ability of Igbos to produce things.
These characteristics were present all over Igbo land. However, in this example, Horton described Baikie’s 1854 experience of the genius, craft and intelligence he witnessed at Aboh, of Prince Tshukuma’s (Chukwuma) sophisticated Igbo-made dressing as follows:
“Again, when the Expedition of 1854 ascended the Niger, the Commissioner, on visiting the son of the late king, Tshukumia by name, found him attired in the following style, ready to receive him. He had on a woollen nightcap, a white shirt, and home-built pantaloons of native manufacture, shaped after an extreme Dutch design . The younger brother, who was received on board , appeared dressed in home-made scarlet cloth trousers, a scarlet uniform coat, a pink beaver hat, under which, apparently to make it fit, was a red worsted nightcap, no shoes, beads round the neck, and in his hand a Niger Expedition sword.' Now these men have never been on the seacoast, and have no connexion or communication direct or even indirectly with civilized men, so as to learn their habits so that their imitative faculty must have been excited by the Expedition of 1841, which made but a few hours' stay in their town, and yet they persevere and imitate what then struck them. But this quality is essential to civilization and advancement.”
Baikie was so astonished by the genius and skill he witnessed in Igboland that he used a portrait of Prince Tshukuma wearing the Igbo made Dutch styled cloth for the cover of his historic book on the Niger Expedition in 1854.
Horton, J., B. (1868) West African Countries and Peoples, British and Native: With the Requirements Necessary for Establishing that Self Government Recommended by the Committee of the House of Commons, 1865; and a Vindication of the African Race. London: W. J. Johnson. (Pg 176)
Baikie, W. B. (1856) Narrative of an exploring voyage up the rivers Kwóra and Bínue (commonly known as the Niger and Tsádda) in 1854. With a map and appendices. Pub. with the sanction of Her Majesty's government. By William Balfour Baikie. London: J. Murray.

TopBack to Top