Adire textile is a resist-dyed cloth produced and worn by the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria. The Yoruba label Adire means “tie and dye”. It was first applied to indigo-dyed cloth decorated with resist patterns in the early 20th century.
A broader colour palette of imported synthetic dyes came into existence by the second half of the 20th century. Adire then included a variety of hand-dyed textiles using wax-resist batik methods to produce patterned cloth in an array of dye tints and hues.
A short history of Adire
Adire textile production is inborn for the Egba People, inherited by birth. This heritage passes on to descendants of families. The Egba land, see the craft 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.
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 the 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. The men became involved in decorating techniques using a stitching machine and applying starch through zinc stencils.
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By the 1960s a growing availability of chemical dyes from Europe caused a revolution in colour and techniques. This, of course, attracted the Nigerian fashion designers who now adapt the designs to print high-quality cloth and have also transformed the art of Adire into an entrepreneurial craft taught in institutions.
Today, new multi-coloured Adire uses simple technology and hot wax or paraffin. Wax or Paraffin then acts as resist agents in place of the indigenous cassava paste.
Creating Adire designs involves simple techniques including tie-dye, folding, crumpling and sprinkling. Also, splashing the hot wax onto a cloth before dyeing is part of the process.
Adire makers recently adopted a block printing technique in applying hot wax. This replaces stencilling to meet the high demand for the product
Whether created by old processes or new innovations, Adire today continues to face fashion challenges and is still an alternative to machine prints. The textile appeals very much to the fashion-conscious in Yorubaland, Nigeria, and also on a global level.
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