The Lagos train also travels to Ìbàdàn, another enjoyable journey but because the train goes all the way to Kano it was absolutely packed. Ìbàdàn is another lovely station. I’m still looking for my photo of the magnificent vintage goods scale. I’ll post it when I find it. One of the reasons for visiting Ìbàdàn is because of its Àdírẹ history.
Ìbàdàn dun is one of the most well known àdìrẹ designs. The pattern is named after the city where it was produced and translates as Ìbàdàn is sweet or Ìbàdàn is a happy place. Ìbàdàn along with, Abeokuta, was one of the major centres of àdìrẹ making, especially the intricate freehand starch paste cloths known as àdìrẹ eleko.
The cloth is divided into a 52 piece grid decorated with 20 different patterns including representations of animals and flowers. The cloth takes its name from one square, which features four spoons representing the pillars of Mapo Hall, built in 1929 as the main administrative centre under British colonial rule. The Hall was also used to detain tax evaders. One of the àdìrẹ eleko makers told me about a song she remembers her father and grandfather singing. “Owo ori ti d’ ode o, o o’ode o baba wa loko san – payment of taxation has come, our fathers were the first to pay, the idiots and lazy ones who have not paid are in detention in Mapo”- “Awon ode ti o le san o, won nbe lati mole ni Mapo.” (Observe Nigeria, 2017) There is, of course, another side to the story of these onerous taxes particularly the impact on the àdìrẹ makers. The Bluest Hands by Judith Byfield documents this important perspective.
Mapo Hall was refurbished during the administration of Governor Alao Akala in 2008 and is now a great venue for important events including weddings and political rallies.
I couldn’t find any freehand àdìrẹ eleko artisans in Ìbàdàn but I think my search was hindered by a lack of time. I was pleased to find fermented indigo balls in the marketplace and I met an indigo farmer.