Introducing the Omooluabi Tee
You know what time it is!
In early 70s New York city, DJ Kool Herc began using two turntables instead of one to play music at parties — giving birth to a world of break beats that have brought us what we know and love as “Hip Hop Music.” At the time, it would have been difficult to see just what Herc’s invention would mean to us, years and years later. Now Hip Hop completely shapes the world we live in. In its own way, it brought emancipation and empowerment to black people around the world, establishing a new language and identity for people to find freedom in themselves.
The same goes for Grunge and punk cultures that were anti-establishment and non-conformist, marking moments in time when young people found a unique voice toward self expression. Throughout history there have been pivotal moments like that — periods that represent a change in mindset, a change in history.
Nigeria is right now in one of those moments. We are bursting through global seams with our creativity. Even as a name, “THIS IS US” is a claim to the pride we feel when we think of our legacy as Nigerians.
In its second edition, The Funtua project is about pride and creativity. It is about using what we have to make ourselves proud of who we are. It’s our gut instinct about who we are as Nigerians: People who value ourselves and the work of our hands.
Omooluabi is our starting point for this year’s edition of our classic Funtua Tee. Translated literally, Omooluabi means “the child born by a good person”; in yoruba’s simple but layered nature, the word expresses a sentiment about a person’s character and translated loosely in english means “a person of good character”– the thesis being that good character comes from birth. Good people give birth to and raise good people.
We Nigerians, we are inherently good people.
We continue to reference our core materials and their origins, adding a new layer of identity that asks the cloth to speak for the wearer on account of its boldness: “the way you dress is the way you are addressed”. First, dressing is adornment, our tattoos — the short markings made using acid from cashew nuts, our facial tribal marks — scarifications made by skilled priests to identify us uniquely or signal us for spiritual protection, our jewelry — coral beads carefully arranged as indicators of our status in ceremony.
Then, it is universal; birth from multiple cultures: trade with neighboring Edo, Nupe, Fulani, Hausa; religious (Islamic and Christian practices of piety in one’s presentation); colonial influence from military uniform and administrative official requirements; and of course weather conditions — comfortable fit for our day to day while still retaining pride of place and the core principle of dress: the way we look is first and foremost about taking pride in ourselves and our place in the world.
Our new “This is Funtua” tee remains inspired by the dashiki in its loose form and shape. We have updated the neck opening to a surer fit. And as usual, the design comes in two options: first, we have one oversized circular text claiming “this is funtua, Nigerian made cotton,” printed right where the heart sits. Then, the second option is an all over print of the circular design in 3 color variants: coral, sky blue, and green. Our colors and the typeface for the lettering are inspired by a universal culture of dressing here in Nigeria, referencing coral beads, Nigerian pride, adire, local tattooing, and digital media, creating a signature tee that confidently reaffirms our layered heritage and how it manifests for us today.
For a complete look, we have created other products to complement the tees: bandanas and tote bags.
Photography: Sam Odumosun. Models: Sheila Chukwulozie, Ashley Okoli, Aye!, Ayo Lawson. Production & Creative Direction: Oroma Cookey-Gam.