The Isi-Agu just like the kola nut, the red feather cap, Okpo Agu cap (multicoloured knitted) is synonymous with the Igbo people.
Isi-Agu: A blast from the past reimagined in modern times
The Isi-Agu is an ancient outfit with plenty modern twists.
The Isi-Agu means Leopard Head is a printed fabric with a Lion or Leopard motif and symbol on it.
This is because formerly it was the Leopard that appeared on the prints, but this has been replaced with the image of a Lion because it is said in Igbo that “Odum na egbu agu” meaning a lion kills a leopard.
The Isi-Agu itself was a chieftaincy title. Anthropologist, Alice Roberts posits the significance of the Isi-Agu, “Isi-Agu attire implies a hierarchy of privilege and dependency since lions are known fighters when it comes to bouts for dominance. Isi-Agu was gifted to warriors, battle-tested cloth as the name implies it is for those who have killed Agu (Leopard and Lion).”
The Isi-Agu is sewn as a long tunic and mimicked Victorian England and the Portuguese Catholic priests in the 17th Century.
It also bears a striking resemblance to outfits worn by people in the South-South part of Nigeria.
The attire is trans-cultural and trans-generational because it has gently slipped into pop culture and modern fashion.
However, it does not come cheap three yards of this material is valued at N16,500. That is why in some Southern states, it is part of the bride price.
The Isi-Agu has been reimagined in the modern-day it is no longer exclusively worn by men or chiefs but, it is freely available to women and those who have the money for it.
They are also not conditioned to sew it like a tunic but can let their creativity run wild and sew whatever design they want.
It is no surprise that the Isi-Agu is still trendy and sought after. It represents strength and nobility and, even if you are not all that, you can enjoy the eminence and bask in the pride of wearing the Isi-Agu.
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