In a renewed drive to promote traditional attire and preserve the cultural heritage of the people, Northeast state governments have initiated viable empowerment programmes to support local artisans and small businesses in the region.
A cross section of the stakeholders, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Borno, Bauchi, Yobe and Gombe States, said that such measures were imprative towards preserving their cultural heritage.
They opined that the region was endowed with rich culture and traditions, hence, the need for practical measures to empower local artisans.
The Kanuri in Borno and Sayawa in Bauchi are some of the tribes famous for their rich traditions, and attire which are widely accepted in many parts of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republics.
Borno State predominantly inhabited by the Kanuri tribe is famous for its rich culture and traditions.
The Kanuri people have been known for their culture of wearing long, elegant garment with a cap.
According to Kanuri tradition, there are about 35 types of dress for male and eight types of robes for female, made through traditional cotton spinning, weaving and knitting.
The attire are further categorised into Kulwu, Gèmaje, Dankiki and Yange as well as Zanna cap.
Kulwu has been defined as a robe or shroud consisting of trouser, a long sleeve undershirt and the open stitched sleeveless gown.
The process of making the dress was purely handmade through the application of traditional wooden instruments to spin cotton, while ash and potash are used for dye to produce different colours.
The spun cotton is used for embroidery, however, with the advancement of technology the industry witnessed massive introduction of machines in the production process.
A voluminous and heavily embroidered piece, the Kulwu worn by men and one of the most popular dress well loved by men from all walks of life.
More so, wearing the Kulwu garment depicts the adherence to cultural beliefs and one’s attachment to the Kanuri tradition.
The art of making Kulwu and cap is considered a noble trade and attracted many artisans especially women in Borno, Gombe and Yobe States.
To promote trade, the Borno State Government, has introduced a N2 billion free interest facilities to empower small businesses and artisans.
Gov. Babagana Zulum, said the state government had so far disbursed N2 billion loans to small businesses and artisans, said the gesture would to boost trade, as part of his administration stategic pillars for the post insurgency recovery.
Zulum said that such measures were designed to restore Borno to its lost glory and make it a business hub based on it strategic position bordering three countries.
He noted that his administration had already designed a 25-Year Development Framework and 10-year Strategic Transformation Plan.
“We shall be deliberate in our effort to position Borno as a safe, secure and peaceful regional hub for trade and commerce.
“We will enable and attract private sector participation in developing, resuscitating and growing key industries to boost employment and economic output, including from SMEs,” he said.
Also, Zanna is the name for the popular traditional cap worn by most northerners to complement their dress gown (Kaftan).
Man artisans engaged in cap making in northern states but the ones from Borno are adjudged to be the best and has gone a long way in promotion of culture and source of livelihood.
The price of a well knitted ranges between N5,000 and N30,000 depending on the quality of the materials and design.
Babagana Alhaji-Mallum, Chairman of the Cap Makers Association, said the people of Bama, known for their prowess in cap making had shown great resilience to sustain the trade in spite of the devastating effects of the Boko Haram insurgency on the trade.
Alhaji-Mallum said that most of the cap makers were displaced by the insurgency, notwithstanding, they continued with the trade at various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Maiduguri.
“Many of us left Bama to Maiduguri, at the IDPs camps we use our skills in cap making to set up a trade centre in Maiduguri that created employment for youths.
“The trade is a source of income and promotes Kanuri culture.
“From the president, governors, ministers, the rich, the poor, everyone is wearing the cap.
“We supply caps to Abuja, Kano, Kaduna and Lagos on daily basis.
“If you dont wear the cap made in Borno, you missed the original,” he said.
He noted that making a cap can take between two to three weeks, adding that there are division of labour in the trade which involved about 10 people at various stages beginning from those that sale thread, designers, knitters, washers and retailers.
“The trade is lucrative a D it attracts men and women.
“The state government recently disbursed N15 million loans to our members to enable them to improve their businesses.”
In the same vein, the Bauchi State Government announced plans to reinvigorate the dye fits in Bauchi metropolis, to promote trade in local fabrics and garments.
Mr Nasir Yusuf, General Manager, Bauchi State Tourism Board, said the Board would collaborate with the owners of the moribund dye fits located at Jahun, Maduguri Bye-pass, Karofi and Kobi communities to resuscitate it.
Yusuf said that the Board in collaboration with stakeholders in tourism was sensitising the people through radio jingles, to promote patronage of traditional germents.
He said that rural women would also be encauraged to engage in the production of caps, shoes and other types of attire such as the famous Sayawa dress called “Taka Kasha Mari.”
“We would also focus our attention in the production of attires for traditional rulers like the shirt called Wundiya, Zabuni, Kufta,” adding that efforts were ongoing to encourage establishment of local textile industry in the state.
Also, Mr Jidauna Tula, Commissioner for Agriculture, said that the ministry would provide support to cotton farmers to accelerate production of the commodity.
Tula said that the farmers would be provided with improved seeds, inputs and land to facilitate successful implementation of the programme.
The measure, he said, is designed to encourage cotton production in commercial quantity for local consumption and serve as a source of raw materials to artisans.
Simikarly, the Yobe State Government said it encouraged cultural festivals to showcase the attires of the people of the state.
Alhaji Adamu Lawan, Director History and Culture, Ministry of Home Affairs, Information and Culture, said that cultural festivals were good avenues to showcase attires and popularise them.
Lawan listed the garments to include Zabuni, Alkebba, Tir-tir, Aska Tara, Zanna Bukar, Lufaya, Malafa, Saki (all gown). He said that the cultural festivals could also be used to promote attires which had the potentialities to boost the state revenue base. According to him, the festivals include Bade Annual Fishing, Barakau, Kapti and Machina cultural festival as well ad local wrestling. Lawan said that the attire could also be promoted by encouraging youths to use them regularly and empower people who produce it.
On her part, Ms Changti Yusuf, a boutique operator, said that she enjoyed high patronage from the sale of Sayawa traditional attire in Bauchi.
Yusuf attributed the trend to the passion the people drive in wearing the famous Sayawa attire in Bauchi and other parts of the country.
She said that she made good saving from the sale of the attire during festivities and ceremonies.
According to her, the Sayawa attire comes in three colours of white, black and red stripes, adding that the fabric was similar to the Yaruba “Ashoke.”
“It has three colours that signifies different meanings. The black signifies the age of darkness and red stands for the sacrifice of our heros while the white colour is for peace and unity.
“The attire come in two categories, the first one costs N14,000 and the second N8,000. Also, some people prefer to hire the dress due to its cheaper price.
“A complete set of the attire comprises of head gear, wrapper, shirt, cap and beads,” she said.
She urged the state and local governments to assist artisans to encourage production of dress in the state.
Also, Mr Habila Muray, a civil servant, said that wearing of the attire was a pride to humanity, a means of self respect and identity.
“The attire gives you joy and makes one Identify with the tribe. Whenever my kids see me in the attire they ask whether I am travelling to the village.
Also, Mrs Diana Bulus, a housewife, said that using the attire made one establish ties with tribesmen in urban cities.
In their contributions, some cap makers in Gombe, have urged the state government to introduce the vocation of cap making in schools.
They said that the measure would help promote and preserve the cultural heritage of the people of the state.
Usman Mohammed, who had been in the vocation for two decades, said the vocation, had cultural interpretations which help them to express their minds and preserve their culture.
“It is an age-long practice that we have preserved for several years. If I didn’t learn it from my father, the family would have lost that touch for cap making which means an aspect of culture is gone.
Mohammed described cap making as good trade which enabled to fend for family, adding that he was comfortable with the vocation.
“So if at the primary school age, children are taught the vocation, it will help them preserve and promote our culture. cap making has special cultural effect.
“You can use cap making to tell your story. Most of these old people making caps can interpret some of the designs and relate it with culture.
“The colours and styles you see on certain cap are not mistake but a design to be interpreted in our own way and we are happy we are selling the caps.
“If the young ones are train, it will also make them interested in using it and when they grow up we will still have people using our attire.’’ he stated.
Another cap maker, Yahaya Yusuf, 56, who corroborated earlier opinion, said that the introduction of the cap making to pupils would help them promote culture and assist their education.
“Education is good and when it is mixed with such vocation it empowers children and makes them self-reliant even while growing up.
“This is the way to go and I urge the government to make it part of our school system to help young people appreciate our culture.’’ (NAN)