Showing posts with label Manchester goods. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manchester goods. Show all posts

Saturday, February 14, 2009

'The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same'

'The more things change, the more they remain the same':

Ajayi Crowther on the Challenge of Education in the Niger Delta

"On these days [holidays] every one appeared in his or her best dress, the males in long shirts like nightshirts, but made of the best Manchester goods they could obtain, such as rich silks, silk velvets, damasks, etc., their under wrappings being of the same materials. The head coverings are black or straw hats or caps, decorated with coral beads of the best quality obtainable. The females appeared in the same rich drapery, but their dresses are cut into lengths of cloths about the size of a moderate table cover. Many such are passed round in layers on the waists and bent in the front until they become a large pile of goods, which make their gait awkward. In addition to all this rich drapery, strings of large, expensive, real coral beads are suspended on the necks of both males and females, at the lowest rate to the amount of ₤50 or ₤60 on the body of an individual. The necks of some females are quite weighed down with them. These coral beads are of very large grains, which are much preferred to small grains, mostly long pipe, round, or drum shape. During the late amusements a new ornament has been introduced in addition to corals as jewels, viz. coins. Gold sovereigns, silver dollars, florins, shillings, and sixpenny pieces are bored through and strung up with coral beads for the neck, wrists, or ankles to the amount of as many pounds as each one was able to purchase. These are exhibitions of greatness and the test of superiority in riches. In consequence of this English gold sovereigns and silver coins have become articles of great demand in the palm oil trade, for ornamental dresses as above stated. One of the native chiefs at New Calabar was said to have purchased coins for his own ornaments, wives', and children's to the amount of ₤500, paid for in palm oil. It was estimated by gentlemen competent to judge that the hat of another chief was valued at forty puncheons of palm oil, which at ₤12 per puncheon, as oil was rated in the river, was equal to the value of ₤480, of coral beads, gold and silver coins, with which the hat was decorated.

This being one of the chief objects of their emulation, one may guess how eager each one much be to make as much by trade as possible, and even to increase their accumulated stores by enormous overcharges on their native produce or materials, and how wasteful it must appear to some of these ignorant people to pay ₤2 a year school fee for the education of a child, because education is not a visible appendage for exhibition as an ornament, as two sovereigns, twenty florins, forty shillings, or eighty sixpenny pieces would have been on their persons."

Ajayi Crowther, quoted in "The Black Bishop" by Jesse Page, 1908

It's the Bicentenary - 200th birthyear- of Samuel Ajayi Crowther! Let's celebrate the life and work of the legendary African educator, pioneer linguist and visionary leader in books, comics, films and other media to benefit generations yet unborn.
For details, check out