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Rabi “Alaso Oke†of Colonial Lagos: A Female Textile Merchant Commemorated in a Yoruba Proverb

Olufunke Adeboye, Tunde Akinwumi, Tosin Otusanya


This study illustrates how oral evidence, when properly situated within its social context, continues to provide information and a rich understanding of the African past. The commercial career of Rabi Alaso Oke, a female textile merchant in colonial Lagos, condensed in a Yoruba proverb, is analyzed in this work. This analysis of an oral text provides us with valuable insight, not only into the Yoruba worldview and social values that informed the proverb, it also enables us to appreciate the active role of women in this milieu. In order words, this study underscores the economic independence of Yoruba women using the career of Rabi Alaso Oke as a case study. It argues that despite the limitations and restrictions of the colonial period, African women, just like their male counterparts, demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness and ingenuity, to rise above socio-economic barriers and amass for great wealth, which in many cases translated to social prestige.


Gender; Colonial Economy; Textile Merchant; Oral Traditions.

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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