Buba Blouse, Nigerian Hand Sewing & Stories


BPL Ambassador, Saratu Mshelia’s tutorial is to teach how to hand sew a Buba Blouse, a traditional Yoruba blouse of Southwestern Nigeria, as she tells us about her journey starting a fashion business based on Nigerian textiles.


My project taught a hand sewing tutorial on how to make Buba blouse- a traditional Yoruba blouse of Southwestern Nigeria. It is a feminine attire usually worn over Iro (wrapper- a long fabric tied across the waist of a woman) and accompanied with a head gear referred to as Gele.

The attire is traditionally made from dyed fabric called Adire and woven fabric called Aso- Oke, but the fabric type has been extended to include lace and cotton fabrics, among many others. It can be worn formally to include Gele(headgear) and Epele, a shawl-style piece tied over the Iro (wrapper) and another piece thrown over the shoulder. 

In formal fashion, Iro and Buba are worn for occasions like weddings and naming ceremonies. It is the go-to traditional attire for women of all ages and status. However, when it comes to status, the distinguishing fabric is expensive, high quality woven and lace material. 

Iro and Buba can be casually worn as an everyday attire using simple fabric such as African print fabric which I used in the video. The choice to use African print fabric was because it has become a symbol of African, particularly West African clothing. Although various tribes and communities across Africa have their culturally unique fabrics and patterns, the African print fabric has widespread application among many Africans.

Even as I shared a bit of personal background and cultural information in the video, I wanted to create an interactive activity through hand sewing. It fosters learning and creates a fun activity for people. While the tutorial is pre-recorded, it gives people the opportunity of partaking in it, as they follow my directions and play the video back as much as they need.

I thank the BPL team for putting this program together, particularly Janel Peterson and Stephanie Larriere who worked closely with me, and rendered their ever- ready support. Special thanks go to my fellow Heritage Ambassadors who are all blessed with talents across multiple cultural fields. I learnt new and important things from them all. To those who partook in the project by watching it, following the steps, and leaving positive feedback, I say thank you. 

From The Artist/Community : 

I am a folklorist and cultural enthusiast from northeastern Nigeria. My passion is to promote African culture through the craft of clothes making, and to increase its wearability across people of diverse backgrounds. I do this by combining African textiles and western designs. 

I get my inspiration from my African heritage and my love for it. My passion began as a young child watching my mother make dyed textiles. The colors were vibrant, and the patterns were unique. So many beautiful textiles can be seen throughout Africa’s highly multicultural landscape and there is so much to learn and appreciate from it, I am eager to share it with the world. 

The purpose of my project is to open the participants ‘minds to learn something new about hand sewing and cultural information. The project had the power to foster unity because people are willing to take away from what is not typically theirs and make it a part of themselves. People who have sewn the Buba blouse will wear it and tell the story as well. This way, they are spreading a great purpose.

Brooklyn, New York
Tue, Dec 20, 2022
New York City
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