Adire pronounced (pronounced ah-d-reh) is the indigo dyed cloth made predominantly by Yoruba women in South-West Nigeria. The fabric is produced using a range of resist dye techniques. There are several techniques used to make adire ranging from tieing and stitching the areas that will resist the dye, to the use of wax for the same purpose. Additional methods also include hand-painted or stenciled designs directly onto cloth. The word Adire is now used more generically to refer to various resist dye fabrics in Nigeria.
Indigo in West Africa
Indigo was the basis of numerous textile traditions throughout West Africa. Indigo in West Africa was obtained from local plant sources, either indigofera or lonchocarpus cyanescans and transforming the raw material into a dye was a complex process requiring great expertise. The art of indigo dyed cloth was a highly valuable skill passed on by specialist dyers from generation to generation. From the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara to Cameroon, Senegal and Mali indigo cloth signified wealth, abundance and fertility. Among the Hausa of Northern Nigeria, where the export trade in prestige textiles was highly organised, male dyers working at communal dye pits were the basis of the wealth of the ancient city of Kano. Sadly this has seen a fast decline due to cheap imports from Asia as well as the unrest and violence experienced in the region. Watch this BBC piece on the current situation.
I find the various dyeing techniques quite interesting as they involve threading, stitching and tying the fabric similar to the Japanese Shibori methods of tie dye. Shibori is a Japanese term for several methods of dyeing cloth with a pattern by binding, stitching, folding, twisting, compressing it, or capping. They have beautiful names such as Kanoko shibori, Itajime shibori, Miura shibori, Kumo shibori and Nui shibori. Each of these describes a specific method used to achieve a certain result. In Japan, the earliest known example of cloth dyed with a shibori technique is said to date from the 8th century. Check out this wonderful blog that features a daily post on various Japanese textiles- www.dailyjapanesetextile.wordpress.com/
Looking through books and images, there are so many similarities between some of the traditional Japanese fabrics and the Nigerian ones I grew up wearing.
As with most things, there is now a modern twist to tie and dye fabric especially in West Africa. Adire is not quite as popular as the ubiquitous African Wax Print but I am one of the many champions of the cause! Check out how we’ve mixed up the gorgeous fabric here on Urbanknit.
Are you a fan of the traditional style of indigo? Or do you adore brightly coloured modern Adire? Share your thoughts!