Another call from Africa – Turgo Bastien


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I came across Turgo Bastien work when I audited a Caribbean art history class in Jamaica at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. It was my first opportunity to explore the work of Caribbean artists. We were given an exercise to find Caribbean artists whose work inspired us. I found Bastien through the titles of two pieces, ‘A call from Africa’ and ‘Another call from Africa’.

In Bastien’s work, I see the survival of the spirit of Africa, a wonderfully complex laying of references of a spiritual ancestral past that connects Haitian Bastien to the African motherland. I see African masks as they were intended to be seen, as part of a ceremonial costume used in religious and social events to represent the spirits of ancestors.

I see how the masks adapted in the Caribbean masquerade to survive attempts to destroy the African cultural identity. I see Lwalwa masks from tribes from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, I see Ekpo Masquerade masks from the Nigerian Ibibio, I see Dan masks from Ivory Coast and Liberia and I see the patterns of Yoruba adire indigo-dyed cloth. I am also reminded of the masks I saw on the Yoruba performers, preparing for the Egungun festival in the Itoko area of Abeokuta, Nigeria, where I was researching adire cloths.

Bastien’s work inspires me because of my research and textile practice, exploring the lost Caribbean African identity.  Bastien’s call from Africa does not come directly from Africa, but through ancestral memories, intuition, spiritual connection, and the rhythm and beat of the drum which transcends time and place.  His work reveals the “… lines of continuities that still inform a memory in motion even as we seek new solutions to historical problems…”(Bastien, 2017)

The more I look at Bastien’s work the more I see. The more I see, the more I feel, the more I feel, the more I am connected.


Bastien, T. (2017). Turgobastien. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Nov. 2017]. (2017). Art and Death in A Yoruba Community – Art & Life in Africa – The University of Iowa Museum of Art. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Nov. 2017].

Bastien, T. (2009). Another call from Africa. [image] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jan. 2018].


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


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

Making Stories Telling Tales II

It’s been challenging accessing the internet whilst on the road in Nigeria so apologies for the gaps with my posts. I’m about to upload another post on The Yorùbá Blues, but in the meantime and staying with the Nigerian theme I’m sharing details of a wonderful exhibition launching this Saturday 29th April for those of you in London.


The artist Flo Awolaja uses African fabrics to create exciting abstract mosaic compositions “that hark back to West-African traditions of using textiles as a means of commemoration and communication, taking them and placing them in a contemporary setting”. The exhibition is the second part of her previous exhibition Making Stories and Telling Tales (Part I) which I saw at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park. London and which really was as Flo described a “vibrant celebration reminding us that narrative is not always verbal, and to appreciate the contribution of African and Caribbean communities around the world”.

image.jpgThere’s a great review of her upcoming exhibition by Elise Markham on her wonderfully entitled blog Cinnamon & Brown and for more information on the venue Gida Collective

Flo also has various size fabric artworks for purchase at Gida and can do commissions with specific fabrics and colours. You can contact her directly on or follow her on twitter @Maverikartz.

Thirteen to Zero – Exploring Sustainable Design

le designFor those of you in Vancouver,  I highly recommend checking out the first solo exhibition of fellow natural dyer Dawn Russell. Dawn has a wonderful organic approach to creating her work. She captures the beauty, colour and texture of nature with photography and sketches which she uses to inspire her very experimental, very exciting pieces, using only natural dye plants and natural fibres. 


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.


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.

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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.

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Àdìrẹ oniko is where the cloth is tied with raffia.

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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.


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.


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.

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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.

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

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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.



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.


Adire African Textiles

British Museum

Gallery of African Art 

The Horniman Museum

Royal Albert Memorial Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Yoruba

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

Chelsea Degree Show and the Art of Carrying

Lots to report after the summer recess, so you will probably see a few posts outside my usual monthly activity. I’ll start properly tomorrow but in the meantime I want to encourage anyone in London to pop along to the postgraduate degree show at Chelsea College of Arts, it finishes at 8pm tomorrow!

Of course I spent most of my time in textile design, enjoying the work inspired by the course’s sustainable design themes which include history, production, natural dyes, textile and environmental waste, techniques, activism and community to name a few.

A lovely conversation with Michelle Njeri Cuthburt. Her show, “the art of carrying ” focussed on Kenyan who carry heavy loads often up to 50 kg on their head, sometimes with a sleeping baby wrapped carefully and tightly in traditional printed fabric on their backs. They use their bodies as transport because they have no other option or because the places they need to get to/from are inaccessible to vehicles. Michelle’s work includes video interviews with some of these ladies, a collection of her designs as posters and exquisite printed silk scarfs. Her work is playful with a bold exciting colour palette. At the same time she is respectful and sensitive of the reality of everyday life for these ladies who continue in their daily toil with an elegant, dignified resilience. You can read more about Michelle at



Carmen Machado talked me through the background to her work, an exploration of the washed up debris from UK beaches and her homeland Puerto Rico. She used the waste to experiment with a number of techniques including, heat manipulation and weaving to create her final show pieces, the fabric for two beautiful chairs. You can find out more about her work at



Alexandra Bissa used traditional weaving patterns from her Greek heritage to inspire her show, developing the designs further into wonderful colourful contemporary tactile designs.



For more info on the show