The Yorùbá Blues – the unspoken Language of Yorùbá indigo textiles. 28 July 2017

Updated.jpg

I’ve been invited to deliver another CIAD, Costume Institute of the African Diaspora Exchange talk. This time I’m focussing on my wonderful Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship in Nigeria, where I studied indigo dyeing techniques amongst Yorùbá artisans.  Àdírẹ is the Yorùbá word for the resist dyed cloth made in Yorùbá towns in Nigeria. The cloth functions both as an aesthetic expression and a means of communication, offering a deep insight into Yorùbá religion, culture, folklore, and history.  The talk includes short videos, photography, and music. 

The event will be held at London College of Fashion, Rootstein Hopkins Space, 20 John Prince’s St, London W1G 0BJ. 5 mins walk from Oxford Circus Tube Station. Tickets are only £3 to cover refreshments but booking is essential. 

Book Here

The Yorùbá Blues – Adirẹ Techniques

Yorùbá people have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with indigo dye for centuries. “The Yorubas are masters of the indigo dyeing process”. (Gillow, 2012)

Kijipa is the earliest known indigenous Yorùbá fabric, made of local hand spun cotton, woven on an upright single heddle loom or a narrow-strip double heddle loom and dyed with indigo.

thumb_DSCN3160_1024

In  C19th Yorùbá towns in south-west Nigeria Oshogbo, Ibadan, Ilorin, Oyo and Abeokuta, Yorùbá women responded to newly imported European commercial woven cloth with a unique indigo dyeing technique called, àdìrẹ. Although the word literally means “that which is tied and dyed”  it is more of a generic word for the indigo dyeing process which has evolved over time and incorporates different techniques which create patterns by resisting the dye. After the pattern work is complete the fabric is immersed in the indigo dye many times to achieve the deep indigo blues prized by Yoruba people.

Àdìrẹ elejo is made by tying seeds in the cloth before dyeing.

fig1_circ592-1965_610px (1)

Adirẹ alabẹrẹ is one of the oldest forms of àdìrẹ and was originally made using hand spun and woven cloth. The cloth is folded and stitched to create a resist pattern. The early alabẹrẹ patterns were created with hand stitching with raffia to create very definite strong marks. More modern patterns are created using machine stitch which creates more subtle patterns.

275273940078543_original (1)

Àdìrẹ oniko is where the cloth is tied with raffia.

tumblr_o3xud8zc7g1v9dhy6o1_500 (1)

Àdìrẹ ẹlẹ́ko comprises intricate cassava paste resist patterns applied through stencils or freehand before indigo dyeing. Stencilled àdìrẹ ẹlẹ́ko is said to have originated in Abeokuta and freehand àdìrẹ ẹlẹ́ko from Ibadan. Both were produced from original freehand drawings.

thumb_DSCN3222_1024

Àdìrẹ alabela is a more recent àdìrẹ technique, where candle wax is used to create a resist.

One of the most prominent practitioners of àdìrẹ practitioners is Chief (Mrs) Nike Davies-Okundaye. Nike was brought up amidst the traditional weaving and dying practice in her native village of Ogidi-Ijumu, Kogi State, in Western Nigeria. Okundaye. Nike began weaving at the age of six and was introduced to àdìrẹ textiles, indigo dyeing, weaving, painting and embroidery by her aunt, great grandmother and grandmother, who at the time, was the leader of cloth weavers in the community. Nike has taught àdìrẹ workshops and exhibited internationally and created four art centres in Nigeria which continue to offer free training to young artists in àdìrẹ and other art forms including performing arts.

chief_nike

Nike is also the owner of the largest art gallery in West Africa, Nike Art Center, based in Lekki, Lagos. Nigeria and contains over 7,000 artworks. I’ll write separate posts about the gallery and more about Nike and her own work. 

I am very grateful to Nike who generously gave me access to her amazing collection of vintage àdìrẹ textiles and spent time explaining the Yorùbá names and meanings of some of the patterns.

The ability to withstand adversity is represented in the popular ewé ẹgẹ́ (cassava leaf) motif.

ewé ẹgẹ́ cassava leaf Nike (2)

A motif like olokoto, which means circle of life reminds us that life is circular.  This references the Yorùbá believe that life does not end with death but continues in another realm or another cycle.

Olokun JPG (3)

A design called Èégun-ẹja meaning fish bone means “don’t bite off more than you chew”. 

Version 2

I’m on my way to Abeokuta and Ibadan, home to àdìrẹ ẹlẹ́ko. It will be interesting to find out if anyone still practices these techniques and uses natural indigo dye.

References

Books 

Carr, R. (ed.) (2001) Beyond Indigo: Adire Eleko Square, Patterns and Meanings. Lagos, Nigeria.

Clarke, D. (2002) The art of African textiles. United Kingdom: Grange Books.

Davies, A. (2014) Storytelling Through Adire: An Introduction to Adire Making and Pattern Meanings. Lagos : A Davies.

eds. E.P. Renne and Babatunde Agbaje-Williams (2005) Yorùbá religious textiles. Ibadan: BookBuilders.

Gillow, J. (2012) African Textiles Colour and Creativity Across a Continent. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.

eds. Simmonds, D, Oyelola, P and Oke Segun (2016) Adire Cloth in Nigeria.

Websites

Adire African Textiles

British Museum

Gallery of African Art 

The Horniman Museum

Royal Albert Memorial Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Yoruba

The Yorùbá Blues – Introduction

For my 21st birthday, I treated myself to a piece of indigo dyed fabric. It has been washed too many times to count and the dye, although still strong has acquired the beautiful variegated patina of age. Years later I discovered it was a Nigerian Yorùbá indigo dyed textile using a starch resist technique called àdìrẹ ẹlẹ́ko. This fabric provides the initial inspiration for my indigo research and my desire to explore my personal connection with Jamaica’s indigo plantations and Yorùbá indigo textiles.

DSC_013 (1)

This part of my research has been made possible through a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship under the Crafts and Makers category. The award has been made in partnership with the Heritage Crafts Association, the advocacy body for traditional crafts. The fellowship has enabled me to travel to South Western Nigeria to research Yorùbá àdìrẹ ẹlẹ́ko pattern making.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust is the UK’s national memorial to Winston Churchill. Each year the Trust awards Travelling Fellowship grants to UK citizens in a range of fields to enable Churchill Fellows to carry out research projects overseas. These projects are designed to exchange ideas and best practice, and build greater understanding between peoples and different cultures.

My travels start in Lagos and from there I head to Abeokuta, Ibadan, Osogbo, Ogbomosho and Olusun-Ota. I’m meeting indigo dyers, artisans and academics along the route. Please follow my Nigerian travels and keep a look out for talks and workshops when I return to the UK.

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 18.58.11

Are you the next artist in residence at the William Morris Gallery

strawberry-thief-william-morris

As a former artist in residence at the William Morris Gallery I highly recommend this residency.  My tenure at the gallery was so rewarding. 

I’ve always been passionate about William Morris’s work after learning about him at school and when I heard about the residency I felt my work with indigo was a good fit. Indigo was Morris’ favourite colour and his extensive work with natural dyes fascinated me. The residency is a perfect opportunity to take his work and use it as a platform for your own ideas.

The exposure from my time as a resident introduced me to different ways to explore my creative practice and I made great contacts. The gallery staff are so supportive they will work with the selected artist(s) to identify specific development needs and can offer curatorial support and support engaging with the local community, but also marketing, fundraising skills, even product development.  There’s an artist’s fee and a budget of up to £2000 for associated costs. 

It’s also a wonderful space to be situated. I always find something new in their permanent displays, their temporary exhibitions are exciting, the cafe serves very nice coffee  and you can take your breaks in Lloyd Park another great source of inspiration. I cannot recommend applying enough! 

Click here for more information

 

CIAD Spring Exchange: Clarendon Blues, Explorations in indigo

CLARENDON BLUES (1)I’ve been working on some interesting proposals and have some very exciting news which I’ll share with you soon.
In the meantime I’ve been invited to give a lecture at the next spring exchange of the Costume Institute of the African Diaspora, CIAD which is dedicated to researching the history and culture of clothing and adornment from Africa and the African Diaspora. Their research is disseminated in various forms including the CIAD Exchange lecture series, an exchange of information and ideas over a two hour event, consisting of a one hour lecture followed by networking, discussion and drinks. You can find out more about their research through their website CIAD

My lecture will focus on my ongoing explorations of Yoruba indigo dying practices and my new research of Jamaica’s Georgian indigo plantations.  The event will be held on Friday 8 April 2016 6:30pm – 8:30pm at London College of Fashion, Rootstein Hopkins Space, 20 John Prince’s St, London W1G 0BJ. 5 mins walk from Oxford Circus Tube Station.

Tickets are free but seating in the lecture theatre is limited so booking is essential Book Here

Flora

Flowers are deeply embedded within our lives and have been an inspiration to artists for centuries. Flora is a Welsh touring exhibition curated by the Oriel Davies Gallery, supported by Arts Council of Wales. The exhibition celebrates flowers as a powerful contemporary source of inspiration presenting new and existing work by key national and international artists offering a different perspective on the subject of flowers in art.

The exhibition will be at the Oriel Myddin Gallery in Carmarthen, Wales from 19th September 2015 until 31 October 2015. I will be joining the gallery on Friday 25th September at 6pm and Saturday 26th September 2015 from 11am until 3.30pm to talk about my relationship with the plant indigo and to deliver an indigo dye workshop. If you’ve never been to Carmarthen I highly recommend a visit, it’s a lovely historic town with spectacular sunsets. There are at least five galleries within close proximity of the Oriel Myddin and most offer Collectorplan the Arts Council’s interest-free credit scheme for buying art.  I will confess to surrendering to temptation a few times! For more information on the Flora exhibition see the gallery website  

http://orielmyrddingallery.co.uk

painting on canvas by Emma Bennett

Faggionato-Yoshihiro-65203 (1)

Through my own textile work I connect with flowers on many different levels, as a source of inspiration but I also use them as natural dyes. I have experimented with many flowing plants to create other colours.  Most of you probably know me for my indigo work but the other part of practice relates to stitch.  I use hand and free motion embroidery mainly to transform textile waste. So staying with the theme of Flora I thought I would share some images from my fun collaboration with the Salvation Army where I reworked some of their old broken hats and textile waste on my millinery blocks and irons into fascinators adding my signature free motion embroidery florals. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

junkere 6

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

07446D6E-9021-4A38-86D5-1D1AA658422Fjunkere 2