Adire — Older Nigerian Cloth:

Adire, which means tie and dye, is the general name for the type of cloth used on the majority of borders on these quilts—Adire Eleko is more specific as the cloth was painted with a resist (cassava starch) by hand rather than tied—then immersed in an indigo vat, and finally boiled in order to scrape the starch and reveal the designs.

The sections that were painted with the starch remained white—the rest indigo, but after multiple washings, the indigo runs into the white and the white areas became a paler blue. (Or occasionally the piece was dipped again in a lighter indigo to achieve that pale blue.) If you take into consideration that paste was painted on as a resist, the respect for the deep shades or lines deepens as well; painting in reverse is an art in itself.

My favorite type of Adire is called Ibadandun, and was made in Ibadan, and means “Ibadan is sweet,” or has come to mean that. I love it for it’s variety of motifs—pillars (which symbolize Mapo Hall in Ibadan; the greater number of spoons within the pillars, the better the cloth) ducks, chickens—frogs, eggs and more. The starch was painted on by women—and girls who learned the trade from their mothers, but the production of the cloth has almost entirely ceased since the 70’s for a variety of reasons.

Therefore, these pieces are extremely rare, (they were not collected nor saved as other African cloths were—) and although they have not earned the amount of respect that Kuba or Kente has—it is only a matter of time before they do, assuming that any at all can be found.

The decision to cut into these cloths was not made lightly.

–Sarah

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