Black Art Studio - fine African textiles and contemporary art


Nigerian indigo-dyed adire textiles rival the better known Japanese shiburi for quality and sophistication.  Traditionally the cloth was designed, dyed, marketed, and worn by Yoruba women.  Today men are involved in most aspects of the making and use of adire but it is still identified with the power and culture of women.



Nigerian indigo
Yoruba women wearing indigo-dyed adire cloth. The designs were made using tie-dye and stitch resist techniques called "adire alabere".
A traditional adire textile
A vintage hand-painted Yoruba cloth.  The design is named "Olokun" for the goddess of the sea.  It is associated with prosperity.
Yoruba master indigo dyers known by the honorary title "iya alaro," mother of indigo.
Indigo dye pots at the Nike Centre for Art and Culture, Oshogbo, Nigeria
Wood ash
Water is filtered through wood ash to bring it to the correct ph for the indigo to develop.
Indigo balls
Fresh green leaves of a bushy plant called "elu-aja" in Yoruba (lonchocarpus cyanescens) is pounded, shaped into balls and dried in the sun. In this form, it can be stored, transported, and traded.
Indigo pot ready to dye
The elu balls are added to the alkaline water. The preparation is stirred regularly and carefully monitored as the dye develops.  The vegetable matter is not removed but settles to the bottom of the pot.  After about two weeks, the dye is ready to use.
Checking the fabric
The color is determined by the length of time the fabric stays in the dye as well as the strength of the dye.  To achieve greatest depth of color, a cloth may be dipped in the dye, removed, dried, and dipped again many times.
The finished cloth displayed by the iya alaro and her assistant at the Nike Centre for Art and Culture in Abuja

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