Did you Know? The Chronicle of ADIRE “Tie and Dye”

During our formative years, especially as a Nigerian who schooled in Nigeria. One of the subjects taught to pupils under the course, Fine Art was ‘’Tie and dye’’.

In those years as a pupil, we were always so interested in making our own final products with all the necessary materials we have requested to be bought by our parents. That subject was a fun one for many youths today although, we were not so much in the know of the story behind this beautiful art piece we put together happily.

We must first be aware that the ‘Tie and dye’’ is locally called Adire. A cloth produced and worn primarily by the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria. 

The first-ever Adire was applied on an indigo-dyed cloth decorated with resist patterns in the early twentieth century. By the second half of the twentieth century, a broader pigment palette of imported synthetic dyes was introduced. Adire then included a variety of hand-dyed textiles using wax-resist batik methods to produce patterned cloth in a dazzling array of dye tints and hues.

Adire was said to be an innate talent of some indigenes from the Yorubaland. In Egba land, the craft was formerly known to be a family business. Parents passed the techniques down to their female children and the wives of their sons. For a long time, people who were not from a certain family were not allowed to partake in Adire production as it was a part of the family’s heritage.

The Adire was first produced in Jojola’s compound of Kemta, Abeokuta by Chief Mrs. Miniya Jojolola Soetan, the second Iyalode (Head of Women) of Egba land. She then passed on the process to her children and onward to future generations. The first Adire material was made with Teru (local white attire) and Elu (local Dye) made from Elu leaf which is planted in the Saki area of Oyo state.

The 1930s brought with it innovations that allowed men to partake in Adire making, which was primarily a female craft.  Women remained specialists in the dyeing, tying, hand-painting, and hand-sewing put together prior to dyeing. The men became involved in decorating techniques using stitching machines and applying starch through zinc stencils.

By the 1960s a growing availability of chemical dyes from Europe caused a revolution in color and techniques. This, of course, attracted the Nigerian fashion designers who now adapt the designs to print high-quality cloth and have transformed the art of Adire into an entrepreneurial craft. This craft can now be taught in institutions.

Today, new multi-colored Adire uses simple technology and hot wax or paraffin are used as resist agents in place of the indigenous cassava paste. Designs are created by simple methods including tie-dye, folding, crumpling, and randomly Designs are created by simple procedures including tie-dye, folding, crumpling, and randomly sprinkling or splashing the hot wax onto a cloth before dyeing. 

Nigerian creatives in recent times have made the Adire a worldwide phenomenon loved by many. It is a fabric that appeals to several and is adapted into different styles and trends.

Did you learn something new today? Leave a comment to share your Adire experience.

We make reference to guardian.ng for some of the information used in this article.