Adire, a name fabricated from two Yoruba words: ‘adi’ meaning to tie and ‘re’ meaning to dye, is the umbrella name given to a number of resist dye techniques by the Yoruba in southwestern Nigeria. A few weeks ago I wrote about adire eleko, a specialist craft the Yoruba from southwestern Nigeria are renowned for (they use cassava paste as the resist). This week I want to focus on two other forms of adire: oniko and alabere.
Adire oniko is the oldest of the adire techniques and involves tying raffia (or thread) to achieve the resist prior to dyeing (traditionally in indigo). This same method of resist dyeing has a long history of being practised through many cultures, all of which have their own name for it: in Japan it is known as shibori; in Indonesia it is known as plangi/pelangi; and in India it is referred to as bandhani and chundri. This method in its simplest form is an easy way to decorate textiles and thus is probably the reason it is considered the oldest technique to produce dyed patterns on non-woven cloth.
The adire oniko method can be found throughout West Africa, making this region of Africa renowned for this technique and textile. Just like adire eleko this is a craft traditionally practised by women, although the advancement of technology allowed men to enter – machine stitched thread resist is usually practiced by men and known as adire alabere. There are a number of ways the cloth can be manipulated before it is soaked in the dye vat: small portions of fabric can be pulled up into peaks and then tied with raffia or thread at the base to make bunched areas (see image above), once the thread is removed post-dye it will reveal a ring-shape undyed area; a portion of the cloth can wrap over a seed, small stone or other object before being tied with thread at its base. This regulates the circle size helping to enhance it; portions of cloth can be folded and crumpled (see image below) and sewn with raffia or thread to hold it in position. When hand or machine stitching is used to generate a resist pattern it is no longer considered adire oniko but adire alabere.
Since I began my textile exploration I often ponder how ideas and knowledge spread through cultures. Adire is one of the textiles that really sparked this intrigue because it is so widespread…I really want to explore this area more so hold on for a blog post on this sometime in the future!
*All images are taken from textiles that my mother has now passed to me.
As well as getting much insight from my mother I also read:
(2005) Patterns of Culture: Decorative Weaving Techniques. monograph 36 in the Ars Textrina series. Leeds: University of Leeds International Textiles Archive.
Hart College Quilts. Dyed Patterns: Yoruba Adire.