What Is a Bubu?
Written by Nyema Igwe
Founder of Asa Afrique
If you have checked out our new releases then you've seen that we have some beautiful new dresses called "Boubous" or "Bubus". I always want you, the customer, to know what you are buying so I have compiled some quick cultural and historical gems about the bubu to share with you. You ready? Here we go:
- The word "Boubou" comes from the Wolof word "m'bubbe" (Wolof is the main native language of Senegal).
- The traditional boubou for men consists of 3 pieces: a straight leg trouser, a long sleeve shirt, and the overflowing, sleeveless gown/robe that is worn over the shirt and the length does not go past the ankles. To complete the look, a man will usually wear a hat.
- For women, the traditional style consists of a wrapper tied at the waist, the long overflowing gown/robe, and a complimentary scarf or headtie.
Even though the term "Boubou" has Senegalese origins, the style is native to other African ethnic groups and regions. The wearing of the boubou can be traced back to as far as the 8th century. It was clothing worn by the Tukulor, Mandé, and Songhai peoples. The style is widely worn in other West African and Central African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Cameroon, Congo, etc. In Nigeria, the style in Yoruba is called "agbada" and is worn in a pretty similar way with a long sleeved or sometimes short sleeved tunic called buba, long tie-up trousers called sokoto, and a complimentary hat called Fila. In Hausa, the boubou style is called "babban riga".
For women, the style has slightly evolved and can be worn without the wrapper and you will hear people describe it as a kaftan. Today, the boubou is a statement fashion piece and can be dressed up or down. For men, it is usually worn to weddings, funerals, or other high profile and important events. Women wear boubous as everyday wear or dress it up for formal events. Boubous are commonly made with cotton (which includes dutch wax/ankara), silk, synthetic fibers such as polyester, or traditional Yoruba cloth called "Aso oke". Depending on the type of fabric and prints used to design the boubou, it can range from very casual to very elaborate. Also, a women's boubou can be loose-fitting making it more modest or it can be designed to hug the body, making it more flattering and sexy.
I hope you have learned a little something about what a bubu (I like to spell it like that) is. Check out the references below to gain some more insight:
Thank you for reading!! <3
Be sure to take a look at some of our new bubus below.
Until next time,
The bold pattern and vibrant colors make this dress stand out. Whether you dress it up or down, it's a great look.
Feel relaxed and royal in our wine O M A V-neck bubu. This dress drapes nicely on the body to flatter any body type.