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Home Forums African Fashion Adire; the art of tie and dye in Egba Land.

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    Grace Amos


      In Nigeria, there are multi-ethnic cultures that have different types of arts including pottery, wood carving, cloth weaving, Raffia weaving, metalworks and so much more. In Yorubaland, particularly the Egba people of Ogun State, among these types of art is Adire.



      Adire is a Yoruba word that basically means  ‘Tie and Dye’. it is an indigo-dyed cloth that is mostly made by the women in the Yorubaland using a variety of resist dye techniques. The production of Adire textile is assumed to be inborn, it was inherited by birth and then passed down to the descendants and future generations of families. It is known as a family business in the Egba land, being that if one is not a member of a certain family, they are not permitted to be part of the production. Parents usually pass on the techniques and processes involved in Adire production to their female children and wives of their sons. The craft was formerly known as a family’s heritage.



      The name Adire was first used for indigo-dyed cloth decorated with resist patterns in the 20th century and the first Adire material was made with ‘Teru’, local white attire. As the world began to evolve, broader color palettes were introduced from synthetic imported dyes. The local dye is gotten from ‘Elu Aja’ which is Elu leaf and is mostly found in the Noth-west and North-central of Nigeria. The leaf is usually pounded, shaped into balls, and sun-dried, this enables storing, transporting, and trading much easier. After it is processed with local chemicals, the Elu is allowed to ferment for a period of three weeks to six months depending on the desired nature of the dye. The Elu leaf mainly produces indigo color dye.



      To achieve the different patterns we see on Adire materials, there are three primary resist techniques being used.



      We have the Oniko technique, which involves tying raffia around hundreds of individual corn kernels or pebbles to produce small white circles on a blue background. The fabric can also be twisted and tied on itself or folded into stripes.



      There is also the Alabere technique. This involves stitching raffia onto the fabric in a pattern prior to dyeing. The raffia palm is stripped, and the spine is sewn into the fabric. The raffia is ripped out after dyeing. However, some choose to leave it in and let wear and tear on the garment slowly reveal the design.



      Eleko technique is also one. This technique makes use of cassava paste painted on the fabric which is traditionally done with different size of chicken feathers, calabash carved into different designs are also used in a manner similar to block printing.



      But today, more modern approaches have been introduced and implemented. One of which includes candle wax, consisting of candle wax and foam. This modern technique is significantly faster and more efficient than the traditional means. Whether traditional or local techniques, Adire today still stands as an alternative to machine prints.



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