Etu cloth

Iya l’Orisha — Sacred Art

Etu Cloth

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OPTZetu_cloth2_gwARTcom

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OPTZetu_cloth2_gwARTcom
Detail of the weaving still on the loom
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© 2010, Indigo-dyed silk and commercially dyed cotton.
Finished size: 15″ x 30″

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Etu refers to a particular pattern used for indigo-dyed woven cloth among Ifa Orisha people of west Africa. Ifa is an indigenous, traditional spirituality of the Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin. It is a system of sacred knowledge and wisdom for well-being and healing; Orisha are deities—the forces of nature whose stories are found in the verses of Ifa. This sacred tradition is also practiced throughout the African diaspora, which includes Cuba, the Caribbean, Haiti, Brazil and the U.S.
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Etu is the Yoruba word for guinea fowl. Guineas are large birds, very fierce. They have beautiful feathers of white speckles on very dark brown or black, or white speckles on light grey-brown. The weaving pattern of etu cloth mimics the speckled patterning of the guineas through the use of light and very dark indigo warp and weft.
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Etu cloth is expensive and highly valued. Traditionally, clothing made from it was used only for important occasions like weddings, funerals, initiatory rites of passage. Garments were handed down from one generation to the next as part of a family’s heritage of identity and wealth.
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Egun Majo is Yoruba for ancestors (egun) of the village of Majo. Their story is found in an Ifa divination verse which prescribes that gifts be given to the Egun of Majo to ensure good fortune and health.
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The images show an Etu cloth weaving in-progress. When finished it was ritually offered to benefit my orisha community Ile Orunmila Oshun.