In part an updated version of Doig Simmonds and Nancy Stansfield’s classic 1971 book on adire, this new work is without doubt the most useful and comprehensive book on the Yoruba tradition of indigo resist dyeing to date. Although published as a print on demand book and with budget limitations apparent in the reproduction of some images the authors add new material such and have drawn together the most important of previous sources, including Jane Barbour’s important articles, and an interesting article by John Picton that even I had missed. I have scanned the back cover, contents page and a typical page below. Click on the photos to enlarge. The book may be ordered direct from Doig at firstname.lastname@example.org priced at GBP18 plus postage.
Tuesday 9 August 2016
Thursday 14 July 2016
The unique feature of this classic late C19th Yoruba robe is the cloth from which it was tailored. One of the most prestigious and expensive patterns of Yoruba aso oke strip weave was dark indigo hand spun cotton with a very fine check pattern of lighter blue or white cotton. This pattern was called etu, meaning "guineafowl" after the bird's speckled plumage. Etu, for those with a deep understanding of Yoruba cultural tradition, formed one of a triumuvirate of prestige textiles, along with local wild silk sanyan, and magenta silk, called alaari, that was imported across the Sahara to northern Nigeria from the C1th until the start of the C20th. Sometimes the fine check of etu was changed to a larger check, then called petuje, which can be roughly translated as "surpasses etu".
Over the years I have collected a very small number of cloths, certainly less than ten, where the lighter coloured cotton that forms the check pattern against the dark indigo ground of etu is replaced with magenta alaari silk, thereby referencing two of the three prestige textiles at once. However this robe is the only known example where expensive alaari silk has been used to form a large check petuje pattern that was used to tailor a man's robe. The robe is sewn by hand throughout and decorated with a well executed hand embroidery in a classically Yoruba style. Condition is excellent. Dates from circa 1900. Measurement: Length 49 inches, width 102 inches/ length 125 cm, width 260 cm
Wednesday 10 February 2016
Malian artist and master dyer Aboubakar Fofana commented:
“these two photos are amazing. The dissa shawl was such an important piece for a man from this region. It was given to a young man by his mother when he got married. She would have saved for this shawl since her son was very young- they were a lot of work and were worth the same as 10 head of cattle. They were indigo dyed, and when the man died, this shawl would be his shroud. The celestial blue of indigo would help him pass from this world to heaven. I'm very proud to be making a modern interpretation of the dissa, with its long fringes, and I hope I am carrying on the tradition of something important in my culture.”
And Belgian art historian Patricia Gerimont, who is working on a book on indigo dyeing in Mali, supplied this information on indigo in Burkina Faso (my translation.)
“the indigo shawls and wrappers in Burkina are dyed by a specific group called the Yarsé, and also by other groups of Marka dyers. The Yarsé speak Mossi but are of Marka origin, you also find them in Dogon country under the name Yélin.”
And here is another photo of Samory Touré wearing his diisa.
Tuesday 9 February 2016
The photo, by photographer Edmond Fortier, shows the Dioula warlord Samory Touré wearing on his head a plain fringed indigo headscarf called a diisa. In a brief discussion of these distinctive cloths in his book Textiles du Mali (Bamako 2003) Bernhard Gardi suggests these cloths were usually a mark of rank. Similar cloths, worn around the hips by young Dogon men, are seen in the photo below, also by Fortier.
And by a Wolof trader below:
Looking at the group of long fringed cloths from Burkina Faso that I posted on my site last week, one of which is shown below, and the remainder here, it seems likely that the tie-dye patterned examples form a previously unnoticed regional variation on this wider tradition of men’s prestige cloths.
Tuesday 2 February 2016
Dogon elders wearing indigo and white cotton uldebe cloths. These cloths are still important among the Dogon as a mark of high status and will play an important role in funeral rites. Photo by Boukary Konate on Facebook.
Thursday 28 January 2016
Rare variant style of vintage Mossi indigo shawls from Burkina Faso with 10 inch long braided fringes and tie dye patterning. There is a deluge of mostly very mediocre indigo dyed cloths coming out of Burkina at the moment but careful searching can uncover some gems amongst them. Message me for sizes and prices.
Thursday 14 January 2016
I usually steer clear of commenting on books about African-American quilting and apparent affinities with aspects of African textiles as it is a controversial topic that, to be honest, doesn’t directly impact on my own interest in understanding more about the history of West African textiles themselves. However this welcome book by quilt and textile collectors Kay and Lori Lee Triplett breaks new ground by looking instead to the indigo fabric used in making the quilts and a detailed, archive research based, exploration of the role of African-American slaves and ex-slaves in the early production of indigo resist dyed cloth in the Americas. This is preceded by a stimulating overview of the history of indigo dyeing within West Africa, and illustrated with both West African textiles and a selection of remarkable antique indigo and white quilts from their collection.