Boubou (clothing)

Boubou (clothing)

The Boubou/Bubu is one of the names for a flowing wide sleeved robe worn in most of West Africa and to a lesser extent in North Africa, related to the Dashiki suit. It is known by various names, depending on the ethnic group wearing them: Agbada (Yoruba, Dagomba), Babban Riga (Hausa), K'sa (Tuareg) Grand Boubou (in various Francophonic West African countries) and the English term of Gown.

Its origin lies with the clothing worn by the Islamized peoples of the historic 8th Century Ghana Empire and 13th Century Mali Empire who had in turn adopted the clothing of the nobility of the early Islamic Empire via the Tuareg people. (see Bisht and Kaftan for information on these). Comparing the Boubou to the various styles of Arabic Thawb suggests the Boubou follows a more archaic template to the contemporary male clothing of the Middle East and North Africa.

The Boubou's use was historically limited to the Islamized peoples of West Africa who had inhabited the Sahel and Sahara but through increased trade and the spread of Islam, had historically spread to the nobility of most of the Islamized peoples in the forested regions of West Africa, and was historically worn by Chiefs of the Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria, the Mandinka of the Gambia and the Susu of Guinea. Even today, the Boubou is mostly worn by Muslims , although it is gaining popularity as a fashionable form of attire by Christians in Southern Nigeria and Ghana, and to a lesser extent, the Swahili people of East Africa and various Bantu speaking groups in Central Africa.

The Boubou as a full formal attire consists of 3 pieces of clothing: a pair of tie-up trousers that narrow towards the ankles (known as a "Sokoto" in Yoruba) and a long-sleeved shirt (known as a "Dashiki" in Yoruba) and a wide, open-stitched sleeveless gown worn over these. They are generally of the same colour, and historically were made from silk, but increased understanding of Islamic restrictions on clothing meant the Boubou is now mostly made from cotton and synthetic cloths made to resemble silk.

There is a set etiquette to wearing the Boubou, primarily in place to keep the over-gown above the ankles at any one time, in keeping with Islamic traditions of avoiding impurity (see Najis). This can include folding the open sleeves of the Boubou over one's shoulders, normally done while walking or before sitting down (as the man in the yellow Boubou in the picture to the right is displaying) to ensure the over-gown doesn't rub against the ground, or by folding/wrapping each side over the other with the hand, narrowing the gowns space toward the ankles (as done by the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara). Thus, it is rare to see the Boubou's square shaped gown completely unwrapped.

The Boubou is usually decorated with intricate embroidery, and is worn on special religious or ceremonial occasions, for example the two Islamic Eid festivals, weddings, funerals or for attending the Mosque for Friday prayer. It has become the formal attire of many countries in West Africa. Older robes have become family heirlooms passed on from father to son and are worn as status symbols.

The Boubou has female versions in Mali, Senegal, Gambia and Guinea, whereas in other regions of West Africa, the female formal clothing has been the kaftan or wrapper.



ee also

*Bisht (clothing)
*Aso Oke Hat
*Senegalese kaftan
* [ Agbada (Grand Boubou) pictures]

External links

* [Video of Malian griot Mah Kouyate, with extensive film of local Chiefs wearing the Grand Boubou during Eid]
*This film, [] , and its sequel "Miss Nigeria 2" [] , contain several properly worn boubous. The sleeves are folded while walking.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Boubou — can refer to:*Boubou A type of clothing worn in West Africa *Boubou, Burkina Faso *Boubou A passerine bird …   Wikipedia

  • Clothing in Africa — A woman in Kenya wearing kanga African clothing is the traditional clothing, often vibrantly coloured, worn by the indigenous peoples of Africa. In some instances these traditional garments have been replaced by western clothing introduced by… …   Wikipedia

  • clothing — I (New American Roget s College Thesaurus) Wearing apparel Nouns 1. clothing, clothes, apparel, wear, dress, attire, array, raiment, garments, garb, costume, outfit, habiliment, habit, rig, ensemble, caparison, drapery, toilette, fig, wardrobe,… …   English dictionary for students

  • Kaftan (boubou) — In West Africa, a kaftan or caftan is a pull over woman s dress. In French, this dress is called a boubou, pronounced boo boo . The boubou is the traditional female attire in many West African countries including Senegal, Mali, and Ghana. In… …   Wikipedia

  • Wrapper (clothing) — The wrapper is a colorful women s garment widely worn in West Africa. It has formal and informal versions and varies from simple draped clothing to fully tailored ensembles. Traditional male attire is called a dashiki.A wrapper takes metres of… …   Wikipedia

  • Kaftan — A kaftan (sometimes spelled caftan from Persian خفتان) is a man s cotton or silk cloak buttoned down the front, with full sleeves, reaching to the ankles and worn with a sash. The kaftans worn by the Ottoman sultans constitute one of the most… …   Wikipedia

  • Aso Oke fabric — Aso Oke FabricAso oke is a hand loomed cloth woven by the Yoruba people of south west Nigeria. Usually woven by men, the fabric is used to make men s robes, see Boubou (clothing) called Agbada, women s wrappers, called Iro, and men s hats, called …   Wikipedia

  • Kufi — A kufi or kufi cap is a brimless, short, rounded cap worn by people of African descent. Please refer to the taqiyah (cap) article for Muslim customs.African and African American UsageIn West Africa, a kufi cap is the traditional hat for men. The… …   Wikipedia

  • Senegalese kaftan — A Senegalese kaftan or caftan is a pullover men s robe with long bell sleeves. In the Wolof language, this robe is called a sabador , in French it is called a boubou (pronounced boo boo). This style of robe originated in Senegal. The length of… …   Wikipedia

  • Aso Oke Hat — An Aso Oke Hat is a traditional Yoruba hat that is made of hand woven African fabric, see Aso Oke fabric, cotton, velvet, or damask. In the Yoruba language, this hat is called a fila. Although these hats originated in Nigeria they are worn by all …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.