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4.3b(ii) Interview with Nafisatu, Ile Eleke, Ilorin, 7 September 1988: Extracts from the interview

I had asked Madam Nafisatu to tell me about dyeing, and much of the interview involved various aspects of this, but as one of my questions I asked her if women slaves were used to help in the dyeing. She replied: if you have a slave, you can use.

She went on to tell more about slaves:

There was a period of slavery when these slaves were brought from the war.

These slaves were used in the farm when the master was a farmer.

Balogun Gambari was the great warrior so he had more slaves than the others.

If the slave was a woman she might be married to the master. (Jagun jagun ama fẹ obinrin ti oba mu ni ẹru)

I asked again, did the slaves help in dyeing? She said yes.

How did the women dyers get their slaves? They got their slaves through their husbands that went to the war front. They also taught their slaves how to do dyeing of cloth.

They didn’t use to punish the slaves, because if they did, the slave might put a spell on them. They believed the spell would work.

You had to give the slave wife the same rights as a free wife.

If the slave wife was pregnant, and was asked to climb a food barn, then the free wife should be asked to do the same when pregnant, or the free wife’s baby would die, due to the spell.

If the iyale (senior wife) cooked for the slave wife while the slave wife was pregnant, and didn’t put in salt, then the same should be done to the senior wife, or the senior wife’s baby would die.

They used the slaves in the farm, but they allowed them to come back home to sleep after they were done.

They gave them regular food.

They took care of slaves as their child.

She kept repeating the following words: These days there are no more slaves.

This was probably because other people were present.