The not very exact story of the long cloth in West Africa!
By Ada Anioji
Considered by some to be one of Ghana’s most stylish celebrities today, Nana Akua Addo did not disappoint on the red carpet at the just concluded Africa Music Awards, AFRIMA held at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. She dazzled in her dressing, thanks to the artistic strength of her designer, Rika Oto Fashion.
But then where did the inspiration for this no-length barred flowing gown come from?
Until we are told we want to believe that it does reside in the arena of the long flowing cloth traditions of the Itsekiris of Nigeria’s Niger-Delta region as exemplified by what has come to be reputed as being the ‘dress code’ of the people that was made popular by Nigeria’s first indigenous Finance Minister, the late Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh (aka Omimi Ejoor) as depicted in the picture below?
Okotie-Eboh making his way to a ceremonial event
And then how did this inspiration flow on to Nana Akua Addo?
Relax, we will tell you what we think.
Historical accounts record that on account of the dogged resistance put up by the Itsekiri Chief, Nanna Olomu (aka Nanna of Itsekiri), when the British Army raided his fortress at Ebrohimi in the Benin River area in 1894 during the (in)famous Ebrohimi War or Ebrohimi Expedition, the British was to insist – after his eventual escape, flight and voluntary surrender to Governor Carter in Lagos – that not only would Ebrohimi be totally razed down but that he Nanna must be taken very far away to a place where he would no longer be a threat to the Empire!
Lagos was clearly not this place as the very wealthy, astute and richly connected Nanna had influential friends and business partners like the Yoruba Chief, Olowu and the British trader, William Neville, who was also a co-founder of the Bank for British West Africa, the precursor of today’s FirstBank Plc.
The first place that was to be chosen accordingly then was Calabar but also worried over Nanna’s extensive coastal trade links, the British authorities finally elected on moving him to the precincts of the more distant Fort Christiansbourg, later renamed Osu Castle in the then Gold Coast.
Of course, while in Ghana, Nanna would naturally have continued with his long established ‘dress sense’ to the point that even when his days in exile came to a close in 1906 and he was returning back to Nigeria to establish a new headquarters in Koko, in today’s Delta State, some of that long cloth legacy was going to remain, and eventually percolate through the progenitors of this other stylish Ghanaian Nana until it has now caught up with her seemingly!
Really, Africa could be a country!