Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Renne, Elisha P., and Joanne B. Eicher. “The Transformation of Men into Masquerades and Indian Madras into Masquerade Cloth in Buguma, Nigeria.” Contact, Crossover, Continuity: Proceedings of the Fourth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 22–24, 1994 (Los Angeles, CA: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1995), pp. 52–62.


Copyright © 1994 Elisha P. Renne and Joanne B. Eicher


The Kalahari Ijo people of the Niger Delta area of southeastern Nigeria use a group of dark indigo-blue cloths with white patterning to cover the faces of masquerade performers. Subsumed under the name of alubite (masquerade cloth) are at least three distinct types: (1) ukara cloth, an indigo-resist of imported muslin, stitched and dyed by Igbo craftsmen, (2) alubite cloth, a gauze-weave, also an indigo-resist, but of unknown provenance, and (3) pelete bite, an Indian madras from which threads are cut and pulled by Kalahari women to form a new pattern.

The first two types of cloth apparently come from non-Kalahari sources. The third, pelete bite, transforms dark blue and white imported madras, using local technology, into a patterned masquerade cloth for which there is a cultural demand. We focus on this transformation, examining particular types of Indian madras considered appropriate for this adaptation and the ways that these cloths are altered (i.e., cut and pulled), their relationship in color and design to ukara and to the other alubite cloths, and the significance of the triangular motif, alu, for depicting water spirits in masquerade performances.