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Dada Nwakata

In their mythology, the Ndoki people of southeastern Igboland recognize a 19th century Akwete-born woman by the name of Dada Nwakwata as the mother of the universally-renowned Akwete cloth. According to local legends, Dada’s designs were so enchantingly spectacular and wonderfully crafted that local fishermen and traders sang songs of their splendor, praising them as creations fit solely for the extremely wealthy.

When her weaving began to attract unwanted attention, she grew concerned that her secrets would be divulged to other weavers, and as a result, became extremely cautious. She began denying people access into her home without supervision and hid her loom and weaving materials whenever she was away - even going as far as placing an ‘agbara’, or small sculpture of a household deity, at the foot of her loom to ward off unwanted guests.

It was said that Dada lived with a disabled female slave named Mgbokwo, whose inability to hear or speak convinced her that she was of no threat to her secret. Mgbokwo secretly observed Dada as she wove, and upon her death, shared intimate knowledge of Dada’s work with fellow weavers, thus preserving and furthering her master’s legacy.

Having revolutionized Akwete’s weaving traditions by introducing imported threads and weft-float designs, Dada is an important historical figure and heroine for the weavers of Akwete. Her highly enigmatic disposition and attitude towards her work continues to serve as a source of validation and inspiration for Akwete’s female weaving community, which, to this day, observes various precautionary measures and regulations to ensure that knowledge of their distinct weaving style remains firmly entrenched within their community.#igbohistory


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