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3.3 Re-translations of the cassette tapes of 6 of the interviews conducted by Otolorin Adesiyun in Ilorin in 1975, as part of a project organised by Professor Paul E. Lovejoy in collaboration with Professor Jan Hogendorn

Section 3.3 contains the re-translations of the cassette tapes of six of the 1975 interviews, organised by myself (Ann O’Hear)  and made for me by my research assistants, Suleiman Ajao (1 interview) and Busayo Simeon (5 interviews), in consultation with me. They present much more detail than the summaries provided in the Oral Data Index, and they also contain occasional annotations by me.

Note on the re-translations: transcriptions such as “O[.]mo[.]dada” in the re-translations indicate that in Yoruba orthography a diacritical mark should be placed under the preceding letter.

Interview by Otolorin Adesiyun with Alhaji Yahaya Kalu Olabintan, 15 July 1975 (Adesiyun # 11). Translated from the tape by Suleiman Ajao, August 1984 [with occasional annotations by Ann O’Hear].

Adesiyun introduces the interviewee as Olori As[.]o[.]. He comes from Olabintan Compound and is about 100 years old.

What is the name of your own father? Mohammadu Buhari.

Where were you born? Ile Olabintan.

What is/was your job? Weaving cloth.

Were you taught any other job besides weaving? No other job.

What was the work of your own father? Weaving cloth.

Have you ever heard that your father’s own father was also weaving cloth? Yes.

How long have you been weaving? A long time.

Is it only cloth weaving you were taught? Yes. I didn’t learn any other job.

Did your father teach you how to do farming? They don’t farm in our compound; people who help us do the farming are in the farm, but we don’t do it ourselves.

The people who helped my father to do farming were slaves.

Can you remember how the slaves were bought? I don’t know. I was very young at that time, so I don’t know.

Were the slaves taught how to weave? No, they only worked in the farm.

Some of the slaves did weave cloth, but not all of them. They gave individual slaves their own job to do. Whichever slaves did weaving didn’t go to the farm, whichever farmed didn’t weave.

Slaves did the planting, yam, maize, guinea corn, and harvested and brought them home.

Slaves that worked on the farm lived in the village(s).

My father would send his junior brother to look after them on the farm. The junior brother of my father would look after the farm where the slaves were working, and my father would be at home looking after the weaving.

My own father was a very important person. A great warrior. Even at the war front, he used to weave cloth.

Our farm in the old days was very big.

I can remember the year when the train arrived. We went to Gama to see it.

My own father came from Iseyin.

Can you say that your father was only weaving cloth before he came to Ilorin?  Only weaving cloth, no other job. Even in Iseyin he was weaving cloth.

Is there any tribal mark to show that people were from Iseyin? Some, have, some don’t. People with no tribal mark will have only [translator’s gloss: two small marks]. There are many people who don’t have tribal marks.

Are there any people around that are from the same blood with your family, who are not living in this compound, but have their own compound around here? The houses surrounding us, many people are there. Ile O[.]mo[.]dada, Balogun Ajikobi, O[.]mo Iduluko[.] are from our blood.

Balogun Gambari, Balogun Fulani, Balogun Alanamu, Balogun Ajikobi are also warriors. They are “saraki,” that is chiefs in war in the olden days.

“Saraki” is someone who has a chiefly title. Anyone who is a chief is called Saraki.

In the olden days, if someone was not a real warrior or popular in the town, could he be given a chiefly title? No, they couldn’t make him a chief. Someone who could fight bravely in war could be given a chiefly title. Even, if you were not brave in war, you wouldn’t get a wife. When the white man first came to me, he came one Sunday. He met some chiefs with me, about 5 chiefs. I was telling the white man that these were the brave warriors. The white man replied that they were not brave; their father was brave because their father was the warrior and gave the title to the sons before he died. The white man said I was the strongest among them because I was doing my job and was still strong.

In the olden days, did every warrior have his own slaves? Many! [protracted exclamation] These slaves were also war fighters. They gave them weapons to fight with. After the slaves were captured, they were still used as a weapon. They gave them guns to fight with at the war front.

Can you remember the name of your mother? Her job? Selling cloth.

When my father finished weaving, he gave it to my mother and she would take it to the market to sell. It was not only my father that gave my mother cloth to sell. If anybody wove their own they gave it to her to sell at Omoda Market.

Did your mother help your father to arrange the thread (o riran owu)? Yes.

Can you remember where your mother came from? Ilorin. No other town.

(Alhaji Yahaya says he is a Muslim.) What type of Muslim? A follower of Mohammed. I have been to Mohammed’s house in Mecca.

Some time ago, you mentioned different types of cloth they used to weave? Yes.

Mention the ones they really wove before the whites came. As[.]o[.] E[.]tu, As[.]o[.] Sanyan, As[.]o[.] Pe[.]tuje, As[.]o[.] Waka.

When the whites came, what type did they weave? A[.]o[.] Olona.

Adesiyun says: I have been round to see weavers, and people said it was when the whites came and brought different type(s) of thread, it was then they knew the baba [Alh. Yahaya Kalu] as head of the cloth weavers, because he has many different types of design.

This is true. Many different types of design. I have different types of cloth which you have never seen before.

Adesiyun says: There is no place I go to that they don’t mention the baba’s name and say that he is their head.

In designing the cloth, was it your father that taught you, or was it from our own mind? From my own mind. The white man when I first knew him he went to Osi to bring some cloth weavers, and went to Kaduna to bring cloth weavers too. He brought them to see me, to know me.

Did he bring them to learn how to design cloth? No, just to know me. Because we have to know each other. Immediately they saw me and the different types of cloth I had been doing, the 2 men from Osi and Kaduna said they can’t teach this baba anything! The 2 men said they now believed this baba was a great man--he knew better than they did.

Adesiyun says: Alhaji Yahaya Kalu showed me the varieties he specialised in. Some were woven with European cotton. Some were perforated.

The white men said they wanted to take me to their country.

Why? They said they had never seen this type of job before.

Was it that they wanted to take you to weave? No. Just to know me abroad. They just wanted to take me there to introduce me to people. Because they couldn’t understand whether it was a spirit teaching me the job. It was my father, not any bad spirit. How I was doing the weaving, I surprised them. When the child of the Queen came, with Tafawa Balewa, in Lagos, they were surprised. Many whites came to see me. I was weaving, they were looking. Even the Queen came later to see it. The Queen said she thought it was done with needles, she didn’t know it was done that way. She was surprised. The child of the Queen took my cloth to England.

I won an award. A booklet was sent to me and I was given some money. They took different types of cloth from various towns to England but my own was the only one they appreciated.

Adesiyun says: Cloth was taken to London from Iseyin, Ilorin etc. Alhaji Yahaya Kalu’s own: O[.]bajeri won first prize, Morindo[.]ti the second type taken, O[.]bajare the third. Alhaji Yahaya Kalu showed me certificates he had won at Ilorin Cultural Shows--Festivals of Arts and Crafts.

Certificate: This is to certify that Yahaya Kalu has been awarded 2nd prize for adult needlework in Ilorin Show, December 1955. Signed Abdulkadiri, Ilorin N.A.

Another certificate says: Ilorin Agricultural Show and Festival of Arts and Crafts. This is to certify that Yahaya Kalu has been awarded 1st prize for weaving, Ilorin Show December 1954. Signed Abdulkadiri on behalf of Ilorin N.A.

A third certificate: 2nd prize for weaving, December 1955. Signed Abdulkadiri, Emir, Ilorin N.A.

Mention the instruments used in weaving. O[.]mu, asa, o[.]ko, agbanrin, okuku, apas[.]a, okeki, ainso[.].

Where did they get the thread in those days before the whites brought thread? Cotton from the farm. It was split and scattered then rolled (wan ran) so as to get the thread. My wife even reeled it too, to produce thread.

In this area of Ilorin do they still plant cotton:? Yes they do. They plant guinea corn, maize, yam, cassava.

Is there any place where they know how to reel cotton well? They don’t know where from, because the people who do/did the job are Ilorin born people.

Did the slaves learn to weave in those days? There was nothing they didn’t do. They learned how to weave cloth too. They learned how to farm. They went to war. There were not many slaves who learned to weave. Even at the war front the slaves wove cloth too. They didn’t come home till the war ended, so when there was a resting period they used to weave. And if they didn’t win the war, the slaves didn’t come home. I used to hear the call Omodada, Omodada. He was a real warrior.

Do/did the family learn how to weave under you? They do/did.

Do/did they take any money from people from the family that learn how to weave cloth? In the olden days they didn’t take any money.

Do any people come from other towns to learn? They do.

If anyone comes from another town and is taught how to do weaving, what will he pay you in return after being taught how to do everything? In return, he has to work for the man for some period, before he can finally be released. Even the white man wanted to learn and asked how much was I taking. I told the white man I was not taking any money. The white man said why was I not taking any money? Because our forefathers didn’t take any kobo from anybody. But whatever you want to do, you will be working for the master. The Yoruba boys that showed the white man where I was were all under me as apprentices. Whatever I sent them to do they had to do, because I was not taking any money.

Who are the people who dye the cloth? They are our women (awon obinrin wa).

Where do they get e[.]lu [leaf used to make dye]? In the farm.

Is it still in the farm? Even till now. And they still do the dyeing of cloth.

At what time do they do the dyeing? Any time. Whether it is rainy or dry season they can do the dyeing.

In selling cloth, are there some people who take the cloth to other countries to sell? Even I took it to other countries.

What countries or towns? Ibadan, Lagos. They even come from other towns to buy. Even Ibos come to buy. Even Ibos come to Ibadan to meet them and buy and take to their town.

Was there any [particular] day for every market during the olden days? Yes, every town has/had its own market day. Ogbomosho’s market day is different [from others].

Who were those who mostly used to buy the cloth in the olden days before the whites? They came to buy but I don’t know where from. Before I only know they came from Ogbomosho to buy and go back to resell. Before they came from Isanlu too.

Are sales made mostly during marriages or Christmas or any celebration day? When they are doing the Ogun festival. Ondo people.

Who were those who used to carry [the cloth] on their heads before the whites came? Carriers (alaaru).

Did these include slaves? No. Only the alaaru.

Where did the alaaru come from? From their town. They might come from any village, including Hausas. They even hired cart (o[.]mo[.]lanke) pushers. They were also working for their daily bread and later would go back to their town.

Is there any system of buying cloth on credit and paying later, or “customer” (onibara) system? Yes.

Why do we have this “customer” system? Because there will be a day when you have no money to buy; you go to where you usually buy for cash, and get on credit. There are even some people who come and buy cloth on credit. After they have sold it they will come back to pay.

In what type of cloth weaving did Ilorin specialise in the olden days, before the whites? Pe[.]tuje, Sanyan, Omale, Waka, Baboko, As[.]o[.] E[.]le[.]tu.

With what type of thread? They used their own local thread.

Can you explain some of the differences in weaving between when the whites came and before? Are local thread and the whites’ thread mixed in weaving now? They are, but when the whites hadn’t come only the local thread was used.

Can you mention the type of cloth woven using both the whites’ thread and local thread? Everything. In every cloth they mix them. In the whole of Ilorin they mix the threads.

Do/did the chiefs take customs duty? They do/did take customs duty from the weavers.

Did the chiefs take any tax money from the weavers on every cloth they weave? No.

Was there any community (alas[.]ipo) of weavers in the olden days? There was/is.

But they didn’t/don’t say this is the price you should put on the cloth? No, they knew/know the price already, so no need of saying this is the price you should put on a particular cloth.

[Yahaya Kalu showed Adesiyun] the type of cloth nobody else could do. There are many types of this which nobody could do in Ilorin, which only I could do. For example, Morindo[.]ti, O[.]bajeri, O[.]bajare.

The three you mentioned, did you know how to weave them before the white men, or after the whites arrived? I have been practising them for long, even before the arrival of the whites. I was taught [doesn’t specify which types] by my father.

The people you taught--is there any reward they want to render in return for the teaching? If there is anything important I want to do, they can bring money.


Did they use slaves in Ilorin? Yes.

Where were they from? During war they got slaves.

From the North or from Yorubaland? Yorubaland.

Do you remember the wars? There were many wars, such as Offa, Ajase, Ekiti. They all brought slaves from these places. Ekiti Parapo--they brought slaves from there. If they didn’t participate in war, they couldn’t get slaves. People would bring slaves from the war, and you would go there to buy them. For example, chiefs bought them.

Was there any place where the slaves settled after their freedom? Whoever bought the slaves owned them. He would show them where to stay.

When they were commanded to stop the slavery business, was there any place where all the slaves went to settle? Nobody knows where they are. Where any slave was interested in going, he would go.

Why? During that time, a person who brought a slave had sold it and had got the money. He had no concern about the slave once he had sold it.

Did slaves free themselves? They did if they worked hard and had the money to pay back the man who had bought them.

What is the difference between iwofa and e[.]ru? The difference is that e[.]ru means slave. Iwofa: if a man was in need of money and had a child he would take the child to the person he was going to borrow from, and the man would give him the money. The creditor would retain the child and the child would work for him until the money was paid back.

Did they give any mark to slaves to differentiate them [from the free]? Because [Adesiyun goes on] it is said some came from the north; they would go to Kano market to buy them. [response] It was mostly in the north that they gave marks to know who owned a slave. Apart from the mark the slaves had already got, they would give a mark to differentiate them. They did it in the north, not here.

What type of work did slaves do? After they were captured, they were used as a weapon at the war front. A slave would also bring more slaves home later. They were also used on the farm.

What attitude and behaviour was there between a slave and his master? The master fed the slave, and the slave would take the master as father, have a special regard for the master. After he had done the work for the master and was tired of serving the master, he would do his own work to get money to pay back the master, to be free from him.

Was there any market where they sold slaves? Isala [Isale] Gambari. [also] Ile Aluweru, that is a house where somebody has the money to buy slaves.

Did they capture slaves near Pakata in the olden days? If you were brave in the world you could do so, but if you were not brave . . . . . . !

What is the difference between Gambari and Fulani? When someone is called Gambari, what is the meaning? If you see Hausa, you can know the difference between Gambari and Fulani.

So, why do people called Gambari speak Yoruba fluently? Because they have been [here] a long time, they do everything here.

If we say Gambari, do we mean Yoruba or Hausa? Hausa. All the children were born here. Their forefathers settled here. Whoever was/is born here is automatically an Ilorin man.

Is there any work the Gambari do which will make you know they are Gambari? Whatever job such as selling secondhand clothes or trading. They don’t weave cloth.

What is the job of Fulanis? They keep cattle. That is how they are differentiated. They put a wrapper over their body, hold a long stick and wear a big woven hat.

Adesiyun says: Yahaya Kalu is the head of all cloth weavers in Ilorin.

Interview conducted by Otolorin Adesiyun with Abdul Karimu, Ilorin, 9 July 1975 (Adesiyun # 1). Translated from the tape by Busayo Simeon [with occasional annotations by Ann O’Hear], August/September 1989.

What is your name? Abdul Karimu.

What was your father’s name? Suleiman.

Where were you born? Ilorin.

Do you remember the Oba who was on the throne when you were born? Oba [Emir] Aliu.

What was your occupation before you became old? I had no other job except weaving.

Did you learn any other work? No.

Do you remember the occupation of your father? When I was born, I met my father weaving cloth.

Did you inherit any farm from your father? We own no farm. It is the weaving that we do.

Do you remember where your father was born? (two other old men present at the interview tell him he should say Ilorin) Ilorin.

Do you remember where your forefathers came from? Kogbai.

Where can Kogbai be found? On the way to Kishi.

Do you remember what led to their migrating from their place of origin? When Ilorin was becoming big and popular (gbayi) they moved here, to join the people. They came to join Alfa Alimi.

Where did Alfa Alimi come from? Sokoto?  [is the question mark after “Sokoto” a typographical error?]

Do you remember the work your forefathers did while they were at Kishi? Farming. But when they came to Ilorin they no longer farmed but became weavers.

Did the man who came from Kishi and the people who came with him have any special tribal marks? They only had small vertical marks (pele), 3 on each cheek.

Where are your relations now? They are Kogbai people. [Also] I have more than one relation in Ilorin now.

In which part of Ilorin are they now? At Ile Sebuturi, Ile Ayilara, Ile Laiti, Ile Le[.]re[.], Ile Sinini, Ile Lemonu Mo[.]le, on the street along Ile Onipanu.

What was your mother’s name? Barikisu.

Do you remember your father’s father’s name? Aliu.

Do you remember your mother’s occupation? A weaver and a dyer.

Do you remember where your mother came from? “station” [?] at Aluko.

Do you remember the man that taught you Islamic religion? [An old man interrupts, saying] We met our forefathers doing it.

Before your forefathers left Kogbai, do you remember their religion? Was it when they came to Ilorin that they changed to Islam? They brought Islamic religion with them from Kogbai. When they met Alfa Alimi they already had Islamic religion.

I would like to give some information on different woven cloths. [Here, another man takes over the answering, because although old, he is still weaving.] Before the Europeans came, they wove Waka, Alikinla, Iyamo[.]je[.], Popo Eleko, Pe[.]tuje[.], E[.]tu, Karojo[.], Arojalasa, Sanyan, Wulu, Funfun, different cloths; if I should start counting them they are up to one hundred.  Before the Europeans, people came from Lagos to buy cloths from them. Before the arrival of the Europeans it was these woven cloths that they used in making trousers (sokoto), cloths to wear [?] (as[.]o[.]) and caps (fila). The Europeans met them using their woven cloths. The Europeans who came did not teach them how to weave.

Can you remember the instruments used in weaving cloth? First of all, our fathers normally travelled to Kano to buy slaves, then brought the slaves back to Ilorin and sold them. Having sold the slaves, they would go back again and buy more. After that the Europeans said there should be no more buying and selling of slaves. It was then that our fathers settled down to weaving, and people from Ibadan and Lagos and all over came to buy the cloth. Both men and women came to buy cloth, and even order cloth.

Where did you buy the thread (owu) that you used in weaving? All the small villages surrounding Ilorin made the thread from the lint. It is a plant. When planted and harvested they would make the lint into thread and then the weavers would buy it from them. Then they would separate (aya) it into the different colours, black (dudu), red (pupa) and white (funfun) and many other colours. Having separated it, then they made the dyeing liquid (aro). They used this dyeing liquid to give many colours like red and black.

In making the cloth they make the loom frame (ofi), the beater (asa), the heddles (om[.]u). Then they spread out the thread [i.e., make the long warp?], then they will sit down and start the weaving (asise kini ti a ma nasi, a wa jokole[.] asi mahun). They have a shuttle (o[.]ko[.]) which they use in weaving. Later, when the Europeans came and saw their weaving they took their thread and  shuttle and came back with their own type of shuttle, with thread and paper. They made the shuttle and thread and the paper stated that they [the Europeans] took the original shuttle from them. The Europeans told them that their own shuttle can be used the same way.

Did you people grow your own cotton before? Yes, we have been growing our own cotton before the arrival of the Europeans. The Europeans’ thread came after our own.

Who were the people making the thread?  (wo[.]n ran owu). The women from the farms were the makers of the thread, even including our own women too, at Ilorin. There were women that made thread and wove among them too.

Were the people making the thread under the male weavers? No.

Were there apprentices under you? Yes, many of them. After they had learnt the art of weaving, they went back and started on their own.

What was the relationship between you and your apprentices? It was our relations (o[.]mo[.] e[.]bi) who wanted to learn the work of their father because it was very lucrative. Even those that went to farm and those in trading business still came back to weaving and they benefited from it.

Did these apprentices pay for their learning? There were some that would be brought to them to learn the art of making cloth that would be living with them without paying any money, and there were some that would be brought to them and would say they would like to learn it for 4 or more years, then they would charge. Having learned the art of weaving and mastered it, then they would pay the money, then they would get their freedom. If it was the weavers’ own relation, having learnt the art of weaving, they would ask him to go, without paying any money.

Who were the ones who dyed the cloth after weaving? There were some women who had no other job except dyeing. After weaving, the cloths that the weavers wanted to dye would be dyed, and those that they did not want to dye would be left. There were other dyers who dyed the thread (pa owu) [i.e., not the finished cloth].

What was the relationship between you and the women dyers? Were they your relations? No. They were doing their own business. They charged according to the quantity of material taken to them. The weavers would take them a sample of how they wanted the cloth to look.

Please explain to me how these cloths were being sold and where. Were the cloths being ordered, or did people just come and buy them? The weavers went to Lagos and Ijebu Ode and other towns, to sell the cloth. They also went to other towns where the people did not know how to weave, to sell the cloth. After selling, they came back with their money (owo).

Who were the people that carried the cloth? Were they slaves or who?

They themselves carried the cloth. Those that had children used them to carry it. In those days they trekked to Ijebu Ode, Lagos and other places. When they left Ilorin they would sleep at Ogbomosho. When they left Ogbomosho they would go as far as Oyo. Then they would go to Lagos. Sometimes it would take them 8 days to get to Ijebu. There were no motors by then.

Were there other people that came to buy cloth from them? Yes, people from Ijebu, Lagos and other places. If they made cloths and they were many and these people did not come for them, then they themselves would have to carry the cloths to these other places.

Does it mean that you people did not have any trade relationship with the people of Bida, Borgu and so on? There was no relationship. Bida people made their own. Ilorin people took their cloth towards Lagos, Ijebu, Shagamu, Ibadan, Ajase and many other places.

Could you please explain the act of borrowing money (eto iyani lowo) in making cloth? When people from Lagos, Ijebu and other places came to buy, they paid them. And if Ilorin people themselves took the cloths to them, they bought and paid.

How were the dyers etc. paid? They were paid after they had finished their work.

Was there any arrangement like “let me sell off these cloths, then I will pay you”? No such arrangement. The cotton growers got their money as soon as the lint was bought, likewise the spinners. It was the same with the dyers.

Having finished the weaving, they would sell off the cloth. If there was any part of the money which had not been paid or could not be paid immediately, then they would leave it and go. If there was any money remaining to be paid, then they would tell the man they would be coming for it, or if not the man would have to send the money through someone. There was no arrangement of borrowing money between them.

During that time, what type of money were you using? Cowries (owo e[.]yo[.] oko kan). The slaves were the people that would count it. If they wanted to go and do marketing, it was the slaves that would carry the money. Slaves would carry the cloth from Ilorin to wherever they were going, and slaves would be used to carry the money back. By then the Europeans had not come. When the Europeans came, the first money they brought was anini.

What brought the Europeans to Ilorin was when the people were fighting among themselves. They asked them to stop and they did not stop, and the Europeans dispersed them. That put an end to the wars.

What cloths was Ilorin best known for by then? Aki Alaro, and other types of Alaro, that people came from Ibadan, Lagos and other places to order. There was no European cloth by then. They used their own thread for making their cloth. There was no European thread by then.

Could you remember a period before the Europeans came, when there was a boom in the selling of cloth? Before the arrival of the Europeans, there was no place they would take their cloth where they would not sell it. There was never any left over. There was a high demand. If the people were expecting them to bring cloth and they did not, the people would come and sit with them. When they themselves took the cloths [to sell them], the customers would rush. There was no European thread by then.

You were saying that the slaves were used in carrying money, and cloth to the south. Where did they get the slaves? They went to Kano to buy them. The slaves were Hausa. Kano was the headquarters of slave traders. Gambari Market [in Ilorin] was the place for slave traders by then. The slaves could be men or women. Sometimes they bought a slave still nursing a child, they bought the 2 together. Some people would like to buy a slave and use her as a wife (e[.]ni tobirin bawu toba fe fi si obirin yio ra). But when the Europeans came, they stopped the buying and selling of slaves.

Can you remember where these slaves are today? When they freed the slaves, many of them could not go back home, and remained in the house of their owner. They allowed  them to build their own house [hut?]. They said they should not call them slaves any more, they became children of the house (odio[.]mo[.]le). Some of the slaves that still knew their origin went back. Some that knew other towns went and settled there.

[Another voice interjects] There are no slaves today.

Wherever the slaves were when the announcement was made that there should no longer be slaves, the slaves were freed, and became part of the people (gbogbo ibi fi kaluku wa ti gbogbo eleyi fi se[.]le[.] kaluku ti di onile nibe[.]).

Do you remember any changes that occurred when the Europeans came? When the Europeans came, the weavers would take half of their own thread and half of the European thread, then mix the 2 and use them in making the cloth. But today the old thread has almost gone. They have been using European thread completely for the past 40 years (ogun meji). There only remains very little of the original thread.

By then, were they being taxed by the Oba on this cloth? The only money they collected from them was their tax money (e[.]nu owo ti wo[.]n gba nigba na ni owo ori) [i.e., “head money”--they did not tax the cloth]. By then they collected 5 shillings from each compound. A compound might contain more than 50 persons--all they had to pay was 5 shillings. When the Europeans came they had to pay 5 shillings per compound. By the time they had divided it up among themselves, some individuals would have less than sisi to pay. But there was no tax on cloth.

Who are the people called Gambari? Those people called Gambari in this town came from Hausaland. They were part of the slaves being bought in those days who could not go back to their homeland.

What was the Gambaris’ work? The  women did spinning, the men were butchers. Some of them would go and buy cattle and sell them to the butchers. The women make koko and fura, sell rice and make cheese and so on. Some men make sere (suya).

Does it mean that anybody called Gambari in this town is related to the Hausas? Yes.

Is there any special area in this town that we can point at that these are the people? Yes. It starts from the middle of the Emir’s market (O[.]ja O[.]ba) up to Ita Ajia, to Amilegbe, as far as the bridge before the maternity.

Is there any difference between Hausa and Fulani? There is a difference. Fulanis are at one side, while Hausas are at the other. They both come from the same area. The Hausa came from Kano, the Fulani came from Sokoto. They both came from the north.

Does it mean the Hausa people are the ones entitled to become the Emirs today? No, that is the Fulani.

Do they still speak Hausa? Yes, a little.


Describe the areas where slaves were being used in this town and what the slaves were used for. They used slaves for farming and the slaves and the owners fed from the farm. If they wanted to sell any farm produce it was the slaves that  would carry it to the market, and bring the money back to the owner.

Where did the slaves come from? Hausa. That is where they all came from and that is where people bought them.

Do you still remember for how much they bought each slave? According to what my father told me, they bought some for 5 bags of money, some for 10. The price depended on the individual slave.

Please explain how they got these slaves. Were they being captured and put in one place, or would people go to Hausa? These Hausas captured the slaves whenever they went to war. Then they would place them in the market place, and people would go there and choose the one they liked. Whoever would like a woman to be his wife, he would buy, or if he would like a slave to be his child, he would buy (e[.]ni tio ba fe fi si o[.]mo[.] yio ra). If he would like a slave to use for business, he would buy. These people would buy slaves and bring them to Ilorin and resell them.

Were there any slave settlements in this town? Yes. The place is Gambari, that is where they sold their slaves. That is where their market was/is. They tied the slaves at the legs so that they would not run away.

Were there any special tribal marks for the slaves? No. Each bore his tribe’s marks. The people who bought them would not give them any special mark.

Explain the different types of tribal marks in those days. They made some marks in front of the ear lobes. Some of them did not have marks. People used slaves for farming. Some people bought them and resold them.

Does that mean that apart from weaving your people were farmers as well? Yes. Some of the slaves ran away if they did not tie them down.

Could you tell me the relationship between a slave and his master? Did they give the slaves food and many other things? Since the masters owned them, they would always give them the food they would eat in the morning, afternoon and evening. They would give the food to those that knew how to cook, to go and cook it themselves. Those that could not cook were given food from this. As they would do to their own child. Wherever they [the owners] were going, if they liked, they would take them along.

Did you allow the slaves to marry and reproduce? If two slaves were bought, one male and one female, they would put them together to be husband and wife, then the slaves would reproduce. Some of the slaves’ children still remain in Ilorin up till today, that is those that are slaves’ children, whose fathers and mothers were slaves (ara o[.]mo[.] wo[.]n na ko tan ni le[.]yi ni ilu Ilorin ni awo[.]n tio je[.] o[.]mo[.] e[.]ru to je[.] wipe[.] baba niyi e[.]ru obinrin niyi e[.]ru awo[.]n mejeji wo[.]n  wa fun wo[.]n laye lati s[.]e toko[.] ti aya).

Were the natives of this place taken as slaves? Or did they take themselves as slaves? Or did they get their slaves when they went to war? When they went to war at Offa, Ikirun, Ado and so many places, including O[.]tun. Any slave caught would be brought home. Some of these slaves whose people had power, their people would come and buy them back, then they took them back home. Some people did not ask about their people taken as slaves, and these became part and parcel of the Ilorin people, that is those that were taken in the Offa War (Ogun Offa). As to this Offa War, it was the Europeans that came to disperse them.

This is the end of the interview conducted on 9/7/75 in Singini Quarters, Ilorin . . . with Abdulkareem of Singini Quarters, supported by Mr. Alfa Raji, also of Singini Quarters.

Interview conducted by Otolorin Adesiyun with Mustafa Mesuna, Ilorin, 10 July 1975 (Adesiyun # 2). Translated from the tape by Busayo Simeon [with occasional annotations by Ann O’Hear], August/September 1989.

This is the interview conducted on 10/7/75 in Adana Compound, Ilorin. My informant at the interview was Mustafa Mesuna of Adana Compound, aged about 95 years. 

Present at the interview were the following: Alfa Saliu, Salau, Nurudeen, Mohammar Jimoh.

What is your name? Mustafa Mesuna.

Can you remember your father’s name? Abubakari.

Where were you born? This is the place where I was born, at Adana in Ilorin.

Can you remember the Emir who was on the throne when you were born? Moma.

What was your work before you became old? I met weaving, so I was a weaver.

Did you learn any other jobs apart from weaving? No.

Do you remember the work of your father? Cloth weaving.

Did you inherit any farm at all? I cannot farm, I did not inherit any farm.

What did your father bring to Ilorin from his place of origin? They came from Oyo Ile.

Do you remember where your father was born? Okanle Lugba was my father’s father (Okanle Lugba ni awo[.]n to bi baba mi).

Do you remember what led to their leaving Oyo Ile and coming to this place? They wanted to become Muslims. That is why they came to this place.

What type of religion were they following before, at Oyo Ile? Traditional religion (orisa).

Were there any special tribal marks for those people from Oyo Ile? The tribal mark is the one I am wearing, which is called koin.

Where are y our relatives? They have all died.

Do you remember the compound(s) where they were before? Ile Aigbo; Ile Olorombo nita Opomu niyi.

Do you remember the name of your mother’s father? Osuma.

Where did they come from? I do not know.

What was your mother’s name? Nana Ayisatu.

Where did she come from? Ile Singini. They were formerly resident at Ile Afa Agaka, at Agaka, before they shifted to Ile Singini.

Can you remember the original place they came from before they settled at Agaka? Was it Oyo Ile? It is a long way.

What was your mother’s work? She wove cloth and sold cloth. Her father was a cloth weaver, before the Europeans came.

Do you remember where the people of Ile Singini originally came from? Kogbai.


Explain the different cloths they wove before the arrival of the Europeans. White cloth (As[.]o[.] Funfun).

Were there different types? They were not different types. It was pure white (funfun gbalau). Mention different types of cloth they wove. As[.]o[.] Funfun Fuu. They made this white cloth in Ayileri [name of a pattern?]. The type I wove was E[.]tu. That is the one I specialise in up to now. My colleagues in those days would weave Sanyan, E[.]tu.

Where did you get the thread? They planted it here. They planted the crop, harvested it, then made the lint into thread and used it for weaving.

Can you remember the area where this cotton was grown? They planted it at the small villages around Ilorin (oko Ilorin). They used slaves on their farms.

Where were these slaves from? They went to war and captured slaves and used the slaves on their farms. The slaves made the thread. They captured both male and female slaves. The men would farm, the women would be harvesting and making the thread.

Do you remember the names of any of the towns where these slaves were being taken from? Lokoja area, Aiyede. The only slave they caught from Aiyede went back and became their Oba.

Were those people making the thread independent on their own? Or under you? The slaves that made thread and those that farmed were under the man I mentioned earlier.

Were there people learning weaving under your father? Those people that came to learn came from Iseyin. People from Ogbomosho came too.

Does this mean you did not go to learn weaving from Iseyin? It was the Iseyin people who came to learn. People from Ibadan and Oyo came to learn too.

Who were the dyers? The man I have been talking about planted e[.]lu [indigo-like plant used in making dye]. It was this e[.]lu they used in dyeing. They used it in making different colours.

Does this mean that those that dyed, farmed and made the thread were under the baba? Yes.

From whom did you learn weaving? From my father’s slave(s).

Does this mean you lived together with the slaves? No. I lived with my father. They taught me weaving, which my forefather taught them.

Where did you sell this cloth after weaving? Or did buyers come from far away for the cloth? Some people came for the cloth from other places.

Do you remember any 2 or 3 places from which people came for this cloth? Ibadan, Lagos, Iseyin, Oyo.

Did people come from the north to buy cloth? They came from Lokoja and Onitsha side. People from Kano, Borgu, Bida.

Who were the people that carried this cloth? It was the slaves that carried it. The son of their owner would go with them.

Were they armed while going? Yes. They would dress as if they were going to war. They would carry o[.]ko[.] (swords? spears?).

Explain about loaning money in weaving. There was no borrowing.

Were there any cloths being sold off without money being collected? No. If you had your money with you, you would get what you wanted. Those that had money would put the money down and say make me this type of cloth.

What types of cloths is Ilorin known for? Re[.]ke[.].

Do you remember before the arrival of the Europeans when there was a very high demand for this cloth? During the reign of Oba Mama, Europeans came and met Oba Mama.

In what period was there a cloth boom? During the reign of Oba Sule.

Was there war during that time? No war. It was during his time that the war ended.

Explain the changes that occurred when the Europeans arrived. The Europeans took our thread and then brought it back again, like omu e[.]le[.]we[.], omu morawo. The Europeans took our thread and used it for making their own thread which the people call owu lankuri. They took the woven cloth along.

Was there any tax charged by the Oba on the cloth? No.

What type of money were they using before the arrival of the Europeans? Cowries (owo e[.]yo[.].

After selling their cloth to people at Lagos, Ibadan, Onitsha etc., who normally carried the money home? It was the slaves who carried the cloth and carried the money back.


How were these slaves obtained? Were they bought, or taken as slaves during war? It was during war that they were taken as slaves.

Is there any special place where these slaves live today? We must not name them. If we name them it will cause trouble.

Who are the people called Gambari in this town? The Gambari do not know their own home town. [i.e., they were slaves?] They came from the north.

What brought them to this place? (question was not answered by the interviewee, as another person interrupted, saying they came with Alimi)

What was their work? Some wove, some made decorations on cloth (o[.]na as[.]o[.]). They traded.

Explain the relationship between slaves and masters before the arrival of the Europeans. If a slave was a woman she would make thread, if a man he would farm.

Who would feed them? Whoever took them as slaves would feed them.

Were they allowed to marry and reproduce? Yes.

When the Europeans came they said there should be no buying and selling of slaves.

Was there any market in those days where slaves were being sold before the arrival of the Europeans? Yes, O[.]ja O[.]ba.

Which market is called O[.]ja Gambari? What did they do there? They sold slaves there? [is the question mark after “there” a typographical error?]

(The interviewee did not want to talk further about slaves, so Adesiyun explained that he was a student, he was not going to use the information for anything. The people at the interview said however that he was going to use it, otherwise why would he have come?)

The Europeans who came and said they should stop slave trading were being humiliated. This happened at the market place--they would say to the white man, why are you stopping this? The white man’s name was Bower; he was the one being humiliated at the market; they were saying, what was he looking for?

Were slaves being taken from this place? They went to war. It was from the war that they brought the slaves.


Did you rear animals before? Yes, and took some to sell at Ibadan.

Where did you buy these animals? At the market place in Ilorin.

Where did they bring them from? The Hausas brought these animals to this place, then we would buy from them. We took our animals to Lagos, Ibadan, Shagamu.

Who were your companions in those days, who used to sell these animals? Most of them have died.

Was it your parents that taught you how to sell these animals, or how did you start? We were being taught how to buy and sell the animals. We bought them for 2 shillings (sile meji). It was a long time ago.

With whom were you selling these animals? There were 6 of us who combined together, that [?] whenever we went on trips to sell the animals we were up to 18 in number. If we were not as many as that, we would be killed.

How did you share your gain? It was an individual business. Each individual recognised his own animals.

How long did your trip take you? 20 days or more.

Were there places where you would rest or stay overnight? If we left Ilorin for Ibadan we would sleep at Budo Egba. We would leave Budo Egba and get to Ibadan. If we left Ibadan [sic] we would get to a place called Tapa. We would leave Tapa to Ile Oyo, leave Ile Oyo to Olorunda, leave Olorunda to Ibadan [sic].

Did you use slaves? Yes. We used the grandchildren of the slaves (o[.]mo[.] o[.]mo[.] e[.]ru). If the Europeans were to hear that we were still using slaves, they would have arrested us and put us in prison, so we used the slaves’ children [i.e., those who were young?].

What happened to your colleagues in selling animals? Did they become very rich? No.

Did they do any other job when they became very old? Yes, they went back to weaving.

Did you have people working under you that were not slaves? Alhaji Alore that died was part of the group of 16 by then. Alhaji Ile Alasa.

Did you have a leader in your animal selling? No.

Did you sell on credit? No! Why would you need credit when a whole animal was sold for one shilling? Some were sold for a shilling and a half.

Were there any other jobs that Ilorin people were known for, apart from weaving and selling animals, before the arrival of the Europeans? They were warriors. They mostly went to war.

You mentioned saraki the other time. Who was saraki in this place in the old days? They were warriors, and leaders and leaders and leaders. They were the 4 Baloguns of this town.

Can you remember where the saraki came from? Were they from the Hausas? No. From Ilorin. Ilorin people were known to be great warriors (jagun pupo). The Gambaris supported Alimi. Our Balogun Ajikobi came from Iseyin. He is a Yoruba.

Is there any difference between Fulanis and Gambaris? Balogun Fulani[’s people] are those people related to the Emir, and they came from the north.

What is the difference between Fulani and Gambari? The Gambari have their own mark, fala bamu. The Fulani are light in complexion and thin.

Are they still at Ilorin today? Their forefathers were here.

When the Europeans said nobody should call anybody slaves, or take anybody as slaves, those that were released, where do they occupy today? They all dispersed.

Name the areas. I must not mention them.

Are these slaves still existing today? Yes, but I must not mention them.

Who are the majority of the people in Gambari area [of Ilorin]? They are the Hausas.

Before the arrival of Alimi, were there Fulani and Gambari? (the answer is interrupted by people coming in. The interviewee seems afraid of the newcomers). No.

(The interviewee then asks Adesiyun to stop.)

Interview conducted by Otolorin Adesiyun with Alfa Sheu of Alawa Compound, Ilorin, 12 July 1975 (Adesiyun # 6). Translated from the tape by Busayo Simeon [with occasional annotations by Ann O’Hear], August/September 1989.

. . . 12/7/75. My informant was Alfa Sheu of Alawa Compound. About 80 years of age. Present at the interview were Alfa Sheu of Akopari Compound; Alfa Ambali.

What is your name? Alfa Sheu Alawaye.

Can you remember your father’s name? Alfa Lemo[.]mu Sanusi.

Where were you born? Ilorin.

In what compound? At Koro Saidun, in Alawaye Compound.

What is your work? Weaving.

What was your father’s work? He wove and made decorations (o[.]na).

Can you remember where your father came from? He came from Awaye.

Where is Awaye? Along Iseyin.

What was their work there? They were weavers.

What was your father’s work before he came to Ilorin? He made decorations (o[.]na) on E[.]tu, Sanyan. I met my father weaving cloth.

For how many years have you been weaving? I started 1933. Before this time I had learned it for a long time. That year, 1933, we went to Ibadan to make cloth.

Explain the different types of cloth that they weave in Ilorin. First, they wove As[.]o Adaugule[.]. Later on they wove As[.]o[.] Olo[.]na, Reke, E[.]leya, Sanyan, E[.]tu, Alari, Topola, Apele (shoulder cloth for women) and some big cloths that women use, made from our type of thread, before it became the type of today.

What were the items of equipment used in making this cloth?  Asa, o[.]ko, o[.]mu, sise[.], agbo[.]nrin, okuku, iyeso[.], ikekere, okeke, iya ofi, aruko[.] ofi ti an gbe agbo[.]nrin le (a base on which they put agbo[.]nrin).

Where did you get your thread before the Europeans came? My forefathers would sell their cloth to the Hausa area then buy their cotton, the brown (pupa) one. Sometimes, after selling their cloth then they would buy slaves. Then they would bring the slaves home and put them together with the ones they themselves had captured in war. Then they would resell these slaves together with those they had obtained before.

Have you ever heard that cotton was being grown in Ilorin or in the villages around Ilorin? Yes, they grew their own cotton in Ilorin. Do you mean before the arrival of the Europeans? Yes, a long time ago. They planted cotton that they used in weaving, that I myself came to meet. There is one type of cotton they call abawa. This type is very smooth and they use it . . . [in a special way] . . .  Likewise, there was cotton at the Hausa area too.

Who were the people making the thread? Old women, and people from the small villages around Ilorin. They taught young girls the making of this thread. From the thread they made, the weavers took white (funfun), red (pupa), yellow (ayiri).

Does it mean the people that made thread were separate, and the weavers were separate? Those women that made thread might also know how to weave, if they had been taught.

Where did the weavers get this thread? Was it brought to the market, or did weavers have to go to the villages? It was brought to the market. They used to go to O[.]ja O[.]lo[.]je[.], O[.]ja O[.]ba. The women also sold it at home. They bought the thread at home from old women who taught the young girls thread making and weaving.

Were there many people learning the art of weaving? Yes, there were people that came that have got their freedom [i.e., finished their apprenticeship].

Were those people that came to learn being paid by the master, or did they pay the master? Or what was the arrangement? The arrangement revolved within the family. We did not get any money, it is among our own relations. We taught our young ones so that when they grew up they would know what to do. It is only God that knows how many people we have taught. We taught people from Onitsha, Ibadan and many other places like Offa and Oshogbo that came to learn from me. I am a master (o[.]ga kan ni emi je[.])--I was one of those that know how to weave As[.]o[.] Olo[.]na in our compound (the others present confirm this), for example writing names on the cloth, even including something written in English of which I do not know the meaning.

Who were the dyers? They used e[.]lu [indigo-like plant] in making the dyeing material (aro). They would harvest the e[.]lu, pound it, then take it to be sold. When I was a child, Kishi people used to bring the e[.]lu. Kishi [town] is after Igbeti. The villages surrounding Ilorin also brought pounded e[.]lu for sale. E[.]lu plants were often seen scattered within the village, before things changed to this present condition at Ilorin. But there are none now. They are [only?] in the bush.

Does it mean that the Igbeti people were the dyers? No, they only bought the dye from them. E[.]lu plants were common at Igbeti, that was why the Igbeti people brought them to those that needed them. Even Ilorin people were also involved in the pounding and selling of e[.]lu,

Where did you sell the cloth? At O[.]ja O[.]ba.

Were there people that came from other places to buy cloth? Some people took cloths to Onitsha, Ibadan, Lagos. These were the people that were businessmen, that would buy plenty of cloths, like 20 or 100 etc.

Have you ever travelled to sell cloth before? Yes, I have travelled to Ibadan.

Were there motor vehicles during this time? There were. If the vehicle departed from Ilorin on a particular day, it would arrive in Ibadan the next day. We started off 3 days before the market day.

Have you ever heard of stories from your forefathers about the selling of cloth before there were any motor vehicles? Yes, I heard a little.

How many days did it take your forefathers to get to Ibadan? It depended on how fast individuals could walk.

Were there places where they would rest on their way? Yes. Some would rest at Ogbomosho, while others would just continue the journey.

Did they themselves carry the cloth, or did they have slaves that carried the cloth? Those that had slaves, the slaves would carry the cloth. Those [who] did not have slaves, but had children or junior ones, or those that had people learning weaving under them, could also send them.

Explain if there was any credit in weaving. They used to borrow people’s money. The system they used was this: they would say, lend me this amount and my child will stay with you; and when I have the money I will come for the child. This is called iwo[.]fa. You could use your child to borrow money if you were in difficulty.

When the villages surrounding Ilorin brought their thread, would the weavers buy the thread without paying immediately? Or have you heard that the people selling thread would allow the weavers to buy without money? When they bought their thread, the weavers could not buy on credit if the sellers did not know the weaver’s house. But if they knew your house, for example if the cotton was worth 10 shillings and you had 7, leaving 3 shillings, the owner of the thread would say all right and would come back on a particular day, and would still bring more thread on that day.

Have you ever heard that those who took their cloth to other places to sell it ever left their cloth there and came home? It is possible if they were “customers.” But you would not leave things on credit the first time you went.

What kinds of cloth is Ilorin best known for? E[.]tu, Sanyan, Pe[.]tuje[.], Bula, Alari. During the old days, long before the arrival of the Europeans, they used it for marriage. They used their own local thread.

Do you remember any period of boom in cloth selling during your father’s time? During rainy season. The reason why they sold it during rainy season is that it is difficult for them to weave during this period.

Please explain the changes that took place when the Europeans came. Also what happened when the Europeans brought the new thread? When the Europeans’ thread came, the weavers used it. But they did not abandon their own thread. The reason for this is that people would say they wanted the old type, like Sanyan and Pe[.]tuje[.]. They used the European thread too, to weave cloth, and they made decorations (o[.]na) on it.

Were there any cloths which they used both the European and their own thread to weave? Yes. If I wanted to make Pe[.]tuje[.],  for example, I would take the Europeans’ white thread to make a stripe on the cloth, together with our own thread.

Was there any tax on the cloth? No.

Was/is there any organisation (egbe) of the weavers? Yes. There is an organisation among those who take the cloth to Ibadan. There is no such organisation among those who weave cloth.

For how long has this organisation existed? More than 30 years. Even when I was a little child.

What are the functions of this organisation? It is only those still in such an organisation that will know better. But, since we used to go in those days, things have changed.

Is there any rule guiding this organisation that such a type of cloth will be sold at such a price? No. They have a meeting, which they all attend when they return from their trip. We the weavers may not even hear the outcome of their meeting.

Do they make any money contribution? They contribute for their own benefit.

[Interviewer:] There was a story that when the Europeans came they learned the art of weaving from Baba Kalu [for whom, see Adesiyun # 11] and brought some people to learn from him. 

[Answer:] Kalu himself learnt the art of weaving  from someone. We are independent of one another. I do not want to talk backbiting against Kalu. I learnt the art of weaving from my father. [i.e., interviewee does not want to commit himself about what he does not know? Also he wants to bring the conversation back to himself? 

Answer continues:] My forefather used to buy thread from Birnin Keffi, and up to Zaria, Kaura.

Did they normally sell their cloth in the north? They used to sometimes. Not always. They themselves [northerners] started weaving and it would be useless to take [Ilorin] cloth such a long distance.


Were slaves ever used here? Yes.

What type of work did they use slaves for? On farms. The master taught the slaves his own personal work.

Did the slaves learn weaving? There are no slaves these days. They teach the slaves’ great-grandchildren. Those cannot be called slaves any longer. When the Europeans came there was no slavery. But people will always be saying it in silence, that so so and so are slaves.

Where did these slaves come from? One cannot say particularly that they were Gambari; some were not Gambari. As they captured slaves from them, they also captured slaves from their own side too [i.e., fellow Yorubas?], during the war. For example, during the Offa War, they [Ilorin people] captured people, and their people also captured our side. That is the reason why people always say that this house or that house are so so and so. There are some other people who just migrated to Ilorin that were not slaves at all. They became warriors when they came to Ilorin.

Explain how they captured slaves. When they went to war, if they captured 4 and killed 2 of them, the other 2 would surrender, then they would bring them back.

Did they sell them? They might sell them, or not. Some of these slaves have become warriors today [i.e., chiefs]. There are some of them that are so famous that their names will always be remembered.

Such as? (laugh) Like the children of Dada (o[.]mo[.] Dada). They were brought in as slaves.

Did they give the slaves any tribal marks? No. The slaves only carried their own tribal marks.

Explain the relationship between slaves and masters. How did the masters take care of them? It depended on the individual and how useful the slave was.

Were the slaves allowed to marry? They allowed them to do whatever they liked. They had wives and had children.

Was there any market here, before the Europeans came, where slaves were being sold? O[.]ja O[.]ba. Asunara.

What about Gambari Market? Yes.

Did Ilorin people capture slaves? They could bring slaves to Ilorin here.

Who are the Gambari, and what are the differences between Gambari and  Fulani in Ilorin? They have different languages.

Where did the Fulani come from? and the Gambari? The Fulani came from Sokoto, the Gambari from Katsina. The origin of Hausa is from Katsina.

When the Hausa came to this place, what type of work were they doing? The work they had already been doing at home. Some sell shoes, some sell perfume, some do laundry. Some learned tailoring, some are butchers, some are alfa, some sell sere (suya).

What type of work do the Fulani do? They rear cattle. They live in the bush mostly.

Who are the saraki in this place? The chiefs.

What about the Baloguns? Because they went to war, and because of the war they called them balogun.

Who were the people that captured the slaves? Those that God gave the power.

Interview conducted by Otolorin Adesiyun with Abdul Lasisi, Pakata, Ilorin, 14 July 1975 (Adesiyun # 8). Translated from the tape by Busayo Simeon [with occasional annotations by Ann O’Hear], August/September 1989.

Interview conducted on 14/7/75 in Pakata. . . . Informant is Alfa Abdul Lasisi, about 60 years of age. Present at the interview is Rasaq Salau, a student.

What is your name? Alfa Abdul Lasisi.

What was your father’s name? Alfa Abdul Asiz Aminu.

Where were you born? Pakata.

What is your work? Weaving. I met weaving from my mother and father.

Do you remember where your father came from before he came to this place? I did not ask him.

How long ago did you start weaving? About “35 years” [spoken in English]. Over 40 years.

Have you ever heard of weaving in the old days? Yes.

From where? From my father.

What was your father’s work? A weaver. Then, he taught Islamic religious knowledge (keu). After weaving the cloth, they made it into garments (e[.]wu) and sold it.

Can you explain what you heard about weaving, especially before the Europeans came?  They planted cotton, then harvested it, and made the lint into thread, and from the thread they made the cloth. Having finished weaving, they made it into garments.

What were the cloths that they wove in those days? They used this thread to weave Bula Funfun. It is the same cloth they call Kitipa. They could also dye Kitipa. That was the type my father was specialising in.

What other types of cloths were other compounds weaving in those days, like Ile Singini, Ile Adana, and Baba Kalu [see Adesiyun # 11]?  The olden days cloth was Bula, As[.]o[.] Olo[.]na came later. There was also E[.]tu.

What are the instruments used in making these? As[.]a, o[.]ko[.], o[.]mu, okuku. Okuku is the one spread outside, where the cloth is hung up. Agbonrin is the one used under the cloth. There is also ikabe. That is the one used to hold the cloth.

Where did they get the thread? They made it themselves. It was the black men that made it.

Have you ever heard from your father that they planted the cotton themselves? Even I myself had a farm in which I planted the cotton that I used. It was the women who made the thread.

Were there cotton plants grown at Ilorin during those days? Yes.

But there were some weavers who bought their thread for weaving? That is true.

Who were the people working on your father’s cotton farm? Slaves. My father had slaves then.

Where did they bring the slaves from? If they went to war, people captured slaves. They also sold slaves.

Where did people normally sell slaves? There was a special house where they sold slaves, called Ile Arowoe[.]ru. They would buy the slaves, then people would buy slaves from them.

What other jobs did they use slaves for? They used slaves on the farm.

Was it only farming that they used the slaves for? Yes.

Who were the people making thread? Women.

Were the thread makers under your father? They were my father’s wives. My father had many wives. They were in purdah (e[.]le[.]ha). They did not go out. They stayed indoors and made the thread.

Does it mean there were slaves that made the thread as well as your father’s wives? Yes.

Were there apprentices under your father? There were, like children of the family.

Were there others who came from far off to learn weaving? Yes. When people became aware (or when civilisation [o[.]laju] came), they started coming.

Do you remember any place from which people came to learn? Ekiti, Ibadan, Ijebu Ode. It was only Iseyin that did not learn weaving from Ilorin. Iseyin people were known to have been weaving for quite some time in those days.

Could you say Iseyin people came to learn from Ilorin, or vice versa? Nobody can tell. Anyone that says Iseyin people came to learn is telling a lie. The one thing that differentiated Ilorin and Iseyin was the different patterns that they made. The different things that Ilorin people knew, Iseyin people did not know. Our own o[.]na that we make on the cloth, Iseyin people do not know. They only weave Kure.

Those people who came from Ibadan, etc., did they go back after learning, or did they stay behind? If so, can you point to certain families that stayed behind? There are none.

Did they pay for learning? No. They work for the master.

Who were the dyers? My father’s wives. They made the thread and also dyed.

Where did they get the e[.]lu [indigo-like plant] etc.? From farms. The ashes (? laru) they used were made by themselves.

They would put e[.]lu in the pot. They fermented the ash (eru), then they filtered the ash and put the filtrate into the pot that contained the e[.]lu, then it became dye (aro). They would use taroji to activate the dye. Before the Europeans came they were doing all these things. They could dye cloth any different colours that pleased them.

Who were working on the e[.]lu farms? There were some people who planted e[.]lu.

Can you remember any place from which people used to bring e[.]lu to Ilorin? From Shaki, Igbeti. These were the 2 places.

Was there any market where people bought e[.]lu? O[.]ja O[.]ba, O[.]ja O[.]lo[.]je[.], Pakata, in those days.

Explain how they sold their cloth, after weaving and dyeing. Were there people who came from other places, or did they themselves take cloth to other places? Also I would like to know the prices for which they sold the different types of cloth, from the stories you heard. [Answer:] After weaving, they would take the cloth to those that they called Arinhoho (those that went naked). The “West” [in English].

Ekiti? Yes.

Ikare? Yes.

Lokoja? Yes. They normally trekked to Lokoja. It took 30 days to get there, and they would buy other things.

What did they bring from Lokoja? I cannot remember.

[Interviewer:] I heard that before the Europeans came they used cowries (owo e[.]yo[.]). [Answer:] They normally used trade by barter before the Aguda (interviewer suggests this means “Portuguese”). When the Aguda came, they started using cowries. In the trade by barter, they would exchange with whatever the other people had.

Who were the people that carried the cowries home? People carried them on their heads, and those with slaves used slaves.

What is the difference between slaves (e[.]ru) and iwo[.]fa? When the Europeans came and there was no slavery, they started using iwo[.]fa. If someone was in need of money he could take his child to a person with money and say “let my child stay with you, lend me this amount, then I will pay you back,” or, if he could not, the child would stay with the leader and work for him until the work could pay for the debt.

Explain about credit in the selling of cloth. Did they sell on credit or were there “customers” in those days? They normally took their cloths from house to house as hawkers. Sometimes they just displayed them in the market place. They only sold on credit to their “customers,” but not to those they did not know.

Does it mean that where they normally rested, on the way to their destinations, they could not give their cloth to their friends to sell for them and collect their money next time? There was such a thing in those days. This was a kind of credit system.

For what cloths is Ilorin specially known? As[.]o[.] Olo[.]na, Eleya.

[Interviewer:] You have not mentioned Bida, Borgu, Kainji, Kano. Does this mean that, before the Europeans came, Ilorin people did not go to sell cloth in these towns, and did not go there to buy thread? They normally went to Kano to buy thread, and sometimes Kano people would bring down thread for sale. Kano people know how to weave Bula, the Nupe people also weave Bula. They do not weave any other cloth except Bula Funfun.

In those days, when they took cloth to Bida or Zaria to sell, have you ever heard that they normally captured or bought slaves? No.

Does this mean that there are no Hausa (Gambari) people who were slaves in Ilorin? There is a group called Kemberi that are slaves in Ilorin. They came from the Hausas.

Who are the people called Gambari in this place? The Gambari came from Kano, Zaria, Katsina.

How do you differentiate between Fulani and Gambari? They have different languages.

Were there any special kinds of work for Fulani or Gambari? Fulani rear cattle. The Gambaris trade. They bring down cattle.

What of kola? Kola came from the West.

How did the Gambari come to this town? The Yoruba that first came to this place lived at Idiape, but they could not stay there alone. This is when Alfa Alimi came. They met Alfa Alimi while they were hunting. They told Alfa Alimi that if he could make it possible for their town to stand against the force of the enemy, they would be very happy. That was how Alfa Alimi came to Ilorin. They are Fulani, it is their family that becomes Emir (O[.]ba).

Explain if there was any period before the Europeans came when there was a boom in cloth selling. No special occasion. There was nothing like Christmas. They had Islamic festivals (o[.]dun imo[.]le), then the indigenous festivals (olosa). During these periods they sold a lot, like during the festival of O[.]yaa.  During the O[.]yaa festival the market must be changed.

What happened during rainy season? We did not have chance to weave. Everywhere would be damp. We farmed during that period.

Explain the changes that took place when the Europeans came.

[Answer:] European thread is very easy to weave with, and they made different cloths too. They wove Olo[.]na, Eleya. The young ones learning how to weave these days cannot weave with our own type of thread.

What is the difference between your own thread and the European thread? Our own thread is not as smooth. Our own type is very heavy, the European thread is very light.

Which type of thread will spoil easily? The one [cloth] which we used our own thread to weave lasts longer than that of the Europeans.

Were their cloths being taxed in those days, especially by the Emir of Ilorin? The Emir did not take any tax, but they had to be prepared, as if for war, when they went on their business trips, in case of being hijacked on the way. They went in groups.

Was there any organisation in those days? No.

Why do they call Baba Kalu [see Adesiyun # 11] Olori As[.]o[.] (Head of Cloth) of this place? There is nothing like Olo[.]ri As[.]o[.]. There was no organisation. Individuals stay separately. Up till now, there is no Olo[.]ri As[.]o[.].

Those that normally grouped themselves and travelled to Ibadan, was there any organisation of them? Individuals do whatever they like, but joining hands together is a kind of advantage, and that is why they group themselves together and have meetings.

Is there any law that this is how much they are going to sell cloth for when they get to Ibadan? Nothing like that. They had proposed such things before, but it was impossible. This was because there was no Olori who could enforce the law.

Does this mean that there is no-one of whom we can say in particular, this man knows how to weave very well? There is no such thing.

Interview conducted by Otolorin Adesiyun with Alfa Salimonu, Isale Oja, Pakata, Ilorin, 14 July 1975 (Adesiyun # 10). Translated from the tape by Busayo Simeon [with occasional annotations by Ann O’Hear], August/September 1989.

. . . Interview conducted on 14/7/75 in Isale Oja, Pakata. My informant was Alfa Salimonu, about 90 years of age.

What is your name? Yahaya.

What was your father’s name? Usman.

Where were you born? Pakata Isale Oja.

What was your work? I worked with motor vehicles. I was the first man to bring a motor vehicle to Ilorin.

Commerce and Slavery

What was your father’s work? A weaver. But I myself have never been a weaver. My father would go to the north and buy slaves and cattle from the Hausa.

What was your father’s senior brother’s work? He and my father did the same work. Sometimes they took their cattle to Lagos and sold them to Aguda [see Adesiyun # 8, where interviewer suggests this means “Portuguese”] people.

Where did your father come from? Ikoyi.

How far is Ikoyi from Ilorin? A day’s walk.

With whom did you start your business? I did not start at Ilorin. I learned my work at Lagos. I learned my work from Engineer Daudu.

You have talked about slaves. During that time, had the Europeans arrived? No. When the Europeans came, they disturbed slavery. It was the Europeans who stopped the whole thing. [Ilorin people] used to sell slaves to Egba people. The Oibo Aguda met them at Lagos.

Does it mean in those days there were traders that went to Kano and Sokoto? Yes. They went there to buy slaves and cattle.

Where did they put these slaves brought from the north? They sold them in the market. Egbe people came to buy. There were wars during that time. They fought at Odo O[.]tin.

Does it mean they did not capture slaves from Yorubaland? They brought slaves from Hausaland and sold them to Yoruba people.

Was there any slave market in this place? Yes. O[.]ja O[.]ba, O[.]jude Abudu. There were wars. It was the whites that stopped slavery. My father had 22 slaves.

What did they use the slaves for? On the farm. They planted cassava, guinea corn, cotton etc. The cotton was used for weaving cloth. There were some whites who came and asked the same sort of questions that you are asking.

Were there any settlements of slaves? They did not settle anywhere. If you brought slaves, you would go and sell them, and if another man brought slaves, he would sell them. If you could not sell the slaves, women could buy them, if they had the money. They used cowries, and not shillings.

Were there any special tribal marks they gave to slaves, to identify them? The Hausa people had their own marks. The Beriberi had their own marks. If they had no tribal mark, the owner could give them any mark he liked, to identify them as slaves.

Would the owner give a slave his own type of tribal mark? If he liked.

You said slaves were used on the farm. Did they trade in e[.]lu [indigo-like plant]? Yes. What else do you want us to use them for? They planted e[.]lu, maize, yam.

Tell me the relationship between the slave and his master. [Answer:] With regards to love, if you bought a man and a woman slave, then they would marry each other. The 2 would be slaves and they would be giving birth to children. The slave child would be the child of the slaves. And all together were slaves of the owner.

Was it possible to buy a slave and use her as your wife? Yes.

You mentioned a market where they sold slaves. What is the name of the market? O[.]ja O[.]ba.

What about Gambari Market? [in Ilorin] The Hausa people set that one up by themselves.

Does it mean that when the Europeans came and said there was to be no slavery, there were some people who were slaves in Ilorin, but whose names should not be mentioned? Yes. One should not mention their names. It is the children of the children of the slaves that remain today. We still recognise that so-and-so is a slave. We can distinguish that so-and-so is not part of us.

Did they capture slaves from Ilorin? They did not take slaves from Ilorin. They could only take slaves if the war got into the town.

Were there some warriors known for capturing slaves? Yes, like Ologun [Balogun] Alanamu. Their forefathers were warriors.

What about the saraki? They were the ones they called Alanamu, they were warriors. Balogun Gambari was a warrior. Balogun Ajikobi was a warrior. Balogun Fulani. If one was not a warrior he would not become a chief. It was only the warriors that had titles.

Apart from those slaves that stayed at Ilorin, could you remember where the slaves went to? Everyone returned to his/her place of origin. Those that were Hausa returned to Hausaland. Those that were Gbari returned to their area. Those that were Nupe, Bornu, Jiga, they all went back to their respective places. There was iwo[.]fa, which they used for borrowing money. The Europeans said they should stop the whole thing. The Europeans condemned them.

What happened when the Europeans said there should be no slaves? Their farmwork was spoiled.

When the Europeans said there should be no slavery, were there slaves that decided they would stay with their master, because he had been good to them? Yes. There were some who stayed with the master, built their own house, and gave birth to children. We ourselves know they are children of slaves.

[Interviewer:]. . . The informant claimed to be the first man to bring a motor to Ilorin, but he cannot remember the date. . . .

You said you were the first to bring a motor vehicle to Ilorin. Where did you go with this vehicle? How did you buy it? Was it bought for you, or did you buy it by yourself? They did not buy it for me, I bought it for myself at Lagos, at John Holt. “Rio.” I used to go to O[.]tun, Ogudu and Jebba. There were some whites, one of them was called “How Much.” The whites would rent my motor and pay me, but I did not work under them.

What type of goods did you take to O[.]tun and other places? Kola. I would bring passengers coming to Ilorin market, and take them back. I also travelled to Egusi, on the way to Ado. The people of Egusi sold ground fried maize (adidun). The cement used in building the bridges to Ilorin was brought to Ilorin by my vehicle, which the white man rented from me. There was no bridge in those days, they used plywood.

When you brought your work to Ilorin, were there people learning under you? Yes, plenty of people.

Where are those people today? Some are alive, some have died.

Does it mean you did not learn any other work, except motor work? No, I specialised in motor work.  I bought another vehicle from UAC. “Chavlej.”

How did you get to Lagos? I went when I was a child.

Did you go by yourself? No, they took me there. I followed my father there. Then they asked me to learn under Mr. Daudu. But slavery had stopped around this time. Slavery by then was far behind.

While you were doing motor work, were there other people working under you, and you all put money together to buy a motor? The only person I worked together with was the present Oni of Ife, Asoji Aderemi. But those that learned under me went and established themselves on their own.

How did you share your profits? Soji Aderemi paid me. I worked for him as one of his drivers. I worked for him and the Oni bought 6 vehicles before I left Ife. By that time he was not yet Oni, the Oni that was reigning was Ajagun.

Did you have any other job apart from driving? No, I have not had any other job.

Who is now doing your work for you? Did any of your children learn driving as a trade? No.

When there were other people who bought your type of vehicle, was there any organisation among them? No.

Did you take your vehicle to Hausaland? There were no roads in those days. If the railway took you to a place close to the River Niger, there was sitimo, which we used in order to cross the river. That was when they were building the railway line.

How did they manage to convey the slaves across the river? They used o[.]ko[.]ojumi.

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