the King, his Palace and the Ancient Wall | pattern design inspiration

February 04, 2020

the King, his Palace and the Ancient Wall | pattern design inspiration

LOLO Coat-Gidan Sarki-Womens Outerwear


Located in the city of Kano, in Kano State, North of Nigeria, Gidan Sarki, palace of the Emir (King) of Kano, is the oldest and largest traditional palace in Nigeria, about 33 acres, built on open plains and surrounded by walls that are up to 15 feet high. Gidan (House) Sarki (King) -loosely translated from Hausa (language spoken in Northern Nigeria) to English, as the 'Kings House' , is part of the Ancient Kano City Wall structure.

emir of kano ancient wall of kano durbar festival

L-R: 1. A section of the Ancient Kano City Wall (1941). 2. Another section of the Ancient Kano City Wall (2016). 3. Muhammadu Sanusi II, 14th Emir of Kano. 4. The Emir, his wives and children. 5. The Kano Durbar Festival.

The Ancient Kano City Wall, a 14 km radius earth structure, was built from 1095 through 1134 and completed in the middle of the 14th century, to protect the inhabitants of the ancient city of Kano. It had an estimated height of 30 to 50 ft and about 40 ft thick at the base, with 15 gates around it. The Ancient Kano City Wall was described then, as "the most impressive monument in West Africa".

ancient wall of kano unesco world heritage siteIt has been landmarked as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sadly, some part of the walls (Gidan Sarki is regularly maintained) is almost gone due to human encroachment, collapse and natural factors.

gidan sarki surface pattern design for homeware

 Counter Clockwise: 1. Re-interpretation of the Gidan Sarki pattern design for wallpaper and dinnerware. 2. Pattern design was first imagined for homeware but we don't want you matching your rug and upholstery so this idea has been benched!


SIDE NOTE 1 | I grew up in this city for 13 and half years (1979 - 1994). My parents moved from Kano for several reasons including losing a lot during the several religious (Muslim versus Christian) senseless bloody riots. We are Igbos. Sadly the attacks were mainly on the Igbo tribe. We drove by that wall several times, almost every day on our way to school and back. I can still see the wall in my mind's eyes. I wish I paid more attention... but how would I have known that unconsciously I would choose this particular place as my inspiration for my first pattern design when I decided to create a design style that will become part of our vision to changing the narrative of the African print?

hausa women in traditional attire

SIDE NOTE 2 | I realised after much thought that my love for patterns might have started at an early age and then triggered afterwards. Don't tell my dad, he would flip that I even considered it- he's a clergyman :), but I looked forward to growing up and converting to Islam and becoming a 2nd or 3rd wife (I don't know why I thought I would be okay with that!), Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), getting a golden tooth, henna decorations on my hands and feet and dressing like an Hausa (the Northern tribe) woman! My first boyfriend at 12-years-old was Muslim, but I'm sure you know how that turned out- the relationship died an early death after 1 month my father found out. I wanted badly to look like the Hausa women, so beautiful and always dressed in attire made of ankara prints and a soft veil draped over their shoulders or head! This is not an 'occasion attire' - this is their everyday attire. Not only that, Kano had a lot of old architecture buildings with surface engraved with traditional pattern designs.

I think, subconsciously, my love for pattern designs was forged in this city, at an early age. It didn't just happen in December 2016 when I created my first pattern design shocked that I had it in me to create something like that. I'm sure if you look back in your life, you'll realise just as I am realising now, that our journey (good or bad), the different paths we take and experiences, leads us to that 'IT' moment in our lives when we find our purpose. Some sort of butterfly effect. It doesn't just happen. That 'eureka' moment we think we just 'suddenly' got. Nah! One day, everything- experience and all - just comes full-circle.

It's not a question of how it will happen, but when it will happen.

UPDATE: March 9, 2020, the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, was removed from his throne.

The Kano government, said he was removed "in order to safeguard the sanctity, culture, tradition, religion and prestige of the Kano emirate", accusing the emir of "total disrespect" of institutions and the governor's office.

He was the grandson of the 11th Emir, Muhammadu Sanusi I, who reigned from 1953 until 1963. Muhammadu Sanusi II was the 14th Emir of Kano. He reigned from 8th June 2014 to 9th March 2020. 

The new Emir of Kano is Aminu Ado Bayero II, son of the late Emir Ado Bayero who reigned from 22nd October 1963 to 6th June 2014.

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