Traditional Cameroonian fabric: Ndop and Toghu

Ndop Toghu traditional Bamileke fabric
The editorial staff


Traditional Cameroonian fabrics are an important part of human culture. They are used to express personal identity, but also to represent religious and artistic aspects. Fabrics can be used in different ways to communicate a specific message or meaning.

Fabrics are often used to mark the identity of a particular person or group. For example, some ethnic groups may wear clothing made with a specific type of weave that is unique to their culture and expresses their identity collectively recognized by other members of that ethnic group.

The Bamileke symbols

The Bamileke people wear a wide variety of costumes: skin, woven, or beaded. Beaded or cowrie shell clothing is generally worn by chiefs and secret or customary societies. Beads are a symbol of wealth and power. Feathers and bells are also used for the decoration of prestigious costumes. The art of textiles is completed by that of ornaments, for which the skin, claws and teeth of the lion, leopard, hippopotamus or elephant are highly prized.
Necklaces of large glass beads are common in the costumes of the chiefs. But the most emblematic garments are those made from ndop and toghu, which have become true ancestral emblems and customs of the Grassfields. They embody today an identity mark, a tradition, a communion with the ancestor. They manifest the richness, beauty, diversity and cultural identity of Cameroon.

The Ndop, traditional Cameroonian fabric par excellence

The NdopAlso called "the blue cloth", is a cotton fabric made of narrow strips sewn edge to edge. It is decorated with characteristic designs, white on a blue background. Several types of ndop exist in the Grassfields, with variations in dyeing, stitching or designs. The motifs decorating the ndop are similar to those used in sculpture: stylized animals, geometric shapes, cosmic symbols. This gives it a very important symbolic value, especially at the time of funerals. Ndop coupons decorate the place where funerals take place. This blue fabric is also very often used for the making of costumes reserved for kings, notables and secret societies. The tradition wants that the ndop is transmitted from father to son.

The Toghu

The toghu also called "atoghu" is the symbol of identity of the North-West region of Cameroon. Made from black velvet, it is hand-decorated with motifs and ornaments using threads of several colors: yellow, red, white and orange. It contains elements of the cosmogony of the Grassfields. Toghu outfits are mostly worn by the fon and royal dignitaries, especially during official ceremonies. Nowadays, however, this fabric has become popular with designers, who have democratized it not only in Cameroon, but also around the world. As for the ndop, the toghu patterns are found in architecture.

Do you have a preference for one or another fabric in terms of design, color?

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