Description of Clothing in the Ghana Empire

Below is a description of clothing in the ancient Ghana Empire: Great and Magnificent Ancient Kingdom of Africa, in the 10th century in the West Africa. This clearly shows that the narrative of naked Africans is quite recent and wrong!!!

Map of the Ghana Empire, ca 300 – 1200


Of the people who follow the king’s religion, only he and his heir presumptive, who is the son of his sister, may wear sewn clothes. All the other people wear clothes of cotton, silk, or
, according to their means. All men shave their beards and women shave their heads

The Obom: Clothing from the Bark of a Tree!

The Obom
The Obom

The Obom, in Fang-Beti (Cameroon) language, means tissue of the bark of the Aloa tree. The bark of the “aloa” tree – a widespread tree in the equatorial forest, particularly originating from Cameroon my home country, – was used in former times for the manufacture of loincloths. The Aloa tree has a fibery bark, and is a soft white wood; it grows quite fast, and once at maturity, its flowers drop seeds which grow around the tree.  This natural fibre is obtained in Cameroon in traditional ways. The bark layers which have a thickness of 1 to 2 mm, are treated as intact sheets with water steam and are subsequently softened by beating. The full description on how the Obom is extracted can be read in full from the webpage of Etolo Eyah, a Cameroonian artist master of Obom. 

Obom painting
Obom painting by Arlette D. Efang

The originality, beauty, and genuineness of the obom bark in combination with modern fabric and leather confers to any creations a touch of exclusivity, in a very ‘green’ manner, leading to sustainable development and handicraft.

Hat made out of Obom bark
Hat made out of Obom bark

The obom enjoys the reputation of being a material of great value and is therefore often also used as canvas for paintings, in witness of the riches of their owners; there are several Cameroonian painters who particularly use the Obom as canvas. This natural fibre can be machine washable and ironed. The use of the obom bark in modern couture is unique. I can testify of this because I have a hat made up of Obom which I have had for over 12 years! Please check out the websites of several stylists and painters, such as Martial Tapolo, Cornelia Orsucci, Peter Musa, Otheo, and Arlette Dorothee Efang, to name just a few. The video below just shows the processus of harvesting and cleaning the tree bark; the bark shown is not obom!