Akwete is a town in Abia state, it is the Headquarter of Ukwa East Locale Government of the state.
Akwete is known in Nigeria and West Africa for its unique weaving making the town an important tourist destination in the state.
Akwete cloth is a unique hand-woven textile produced in Igboland for which the town of Akwete in Abia state, South Eastern Nigeria is famous.
The raw materials used in its production are wool, cotton, silk, raffia, cotton and the bark of certain trees (hemp). The Akwete cloth was originally referred to as “Akwa Miri” (Cloth of the water) meaning towel.
The traditional Igbo weaving as demonstrated in Akwete processes sisal-hemp, raffia and spun cotton into finished product on a wide vertical loom.
Igbo legend tells us that weavers from that village were among those to do so in the late nineteenth century.
Using imported threads in an array of vibrant colours, and inspired by cloth imports from England, India, and elsewhere, the Legendary Weaver Dada Nwakwata began weaving designs of her invention.
Said to be the founder of weaving as it is now known in her villages, Dada Nawkwata has remained a major role model for Akwete weavers, who like her claim they can weave any cloth design set before them.
The mid- to late nineteenth century, weaving grew from part-time activity that occupied some women, to full-time occupation in which all Akwete women participated.
At this period, Akwete weavers responded to the patronage of neighboring Ijo peoples of the Niger- Delta, devising novel techniques to create desired patterns in new textile materials.
Just like most women’s weaving throughout Nigeria, Akwete weaving is done on anupright frame loom with continuous warp and other accessories
The basic Akwete cloth is usually made of cotton thread whilst the decorative patterns and effects are added with thread of heavier texture or contrasting colours.
In former times, only royal families could wear the ‘Ikaki’ motif, andif an ordinary person attempts to wear it, he could be sold into slavery.
The weavers claim that certain motifs and designs were revealed to them in the dreams.
Materials Used For Production
The materials used in the production of Akwete cloth are as follow: Loom, heddle, beater/sword, yarn/ twine /brass spatula, rope, shuttle, wax
Women usually tie the cloth as a wrap-around skirt (wrapper) with a blouse of lightweight machine-made fabric.
The cloth is usually woven in pairs and the Igbo women wear the two wrappers on public occasions, the first one tied to reach the ankle and the second one to mid-calf length.
While the Men use the fabric to sew traditional shirts popularly known as jumper, Wokor, or Etibo.
These they wear over trousers for special occasions. The cloth may also be woven in smaller versions that could be used as curtains, cushion, table, lectern, or bed covers.