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Adire: The Tie and Dye Process

Mar 13 2018

(kampala)History of trade and fashion is not complete in the South-Western part of Nigeria without mentioning the art of Adire. This is a tie and dye process of making cloth using the Indigo plant extract and the now usage of caustic soda and dye to make what is called Kampala.
The Yoruba people were known for their trade and thus travels. Story has it that the tie and dye process is synonymous to cloth pattern worn in Mali.
Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State is popular for two things; Olumo rock and the popular Adire Market. There is the issue of where the tie and dye process originated from. The Osogbo people claim it is theirs in alignment to the story of how Osogbo got its name from the Goddess of the Osun River. ‘Oso igbo e pele o, gbogbo koko aro mi le ti fo tan’ meaning ”Hello deity of the forest,you have broken all my dyeing pots.’ This made tie and dye to become their trade. While on the other hand the Abeokuta people lay claim to starting the art way back.

Speaking to Elsat Kampala, a great grand daughter of Iyabode Sunmonu, the person who brought the art of Tie and Dye (kampala) to Abeokuta on who truly started the trade. She gave me her own answer in respect to how knowledgeable she is about the issue, for she was not yet born when her great-great grandmother passed on. We also talk about the history and process of tie and dye.

“Osun State can not beat their chest to say they own the art of Indigo making.The reason is growing up, i was born into this art and many trainees have passed through this place to learn the art of tie and dye. Osun and Abeokuta are so different to each other. Maybe in another world before we were born can Osun claim they started
the art of tie and dye. The art of tie and dye is synonymous to this family. The Adeyanju’s family popularly known as Jojoola compound, the address is 16, Jojoola Court, Abeokuta.”

If we want to trace the history of the name, the first Iyalode in Egbaland bears the name Jojoola, and she was inaugurated in this compound.
The first set of tie and dye that was made in Abeokuta was in this compound and it’s the Indigo dye, which the Osogbo people took up as there own.

From my own understanding that i can deduce so far on the issue of Osun and Egba saying they both own the tie and dye craft, their Oriki (praise poetry) talks to the type of tie and dye they practice. The knowledge they learn from our own great great grand mothers is what they worked on to expand their own knowledge of tie and dye to the extent we do not have similar designs.

There are some adire makers in the area called Oke-Ijemo in Abeokuta here. Our siblings and family that married from the area always bring their wives to us to learn and work. In brief, all of them learn the art of tie and dye from Jojoola’s compound.

All these area used to be pots of Indigo while I was growing up. The founder of the art of Kampala in Abeokuta, Iyabode Sunmonu, was a known socialite who brought in the art of Kampala which is quite different from the art of Indigo. Many people come around wanting to know the art of Indigo but it’s a trade secret that can not be messed with like the way Kampala making has been diluted.

Indigo has a lot of health protection. If worn most of the time, the wearer will not have any case of hypertension, diabetes. Back then, Teru material was used for the Indigo dye, Satin and another material called ‘Jojo’ are also used, but they are not manufactured again. The teru materials available now are not as good as the ones in the 70s and 80s. Thus we converted to using white materials for the making of Indigo art. It is not all materials that can absorb indigo dye.
Any cloth materials that has nylon texture can not hold dye in it, once dipped in cold water, it flows off thus spoiling the materials with no design at all. Cotton materials mixed with a bit of nylon material can absorb the dye a bit but will not be like real cotton which will absorb the dye.

Indigo dye is medicinal and is used by trado-medical doctors for health use. It is not poisonous as such, the water gotten from the Indigo dye can be used for medicinal purpose.

Yes it does contain very little quantity of caustic soda. It’s main ingredient which people want to find out the secret is the indigo plant extract. Before you can learn this trade in the olden days you must be a member of this family or related in one form, outsiders were not permitted to learn the trade, but all these changed with civilisation and the forming of association within the market.

The Kampala Story.

Iyabode Sunmonu was a socialite, always traveling across the African continent from where she brought in the art of Kampalla making. Her own grandmother Adijat Kubura Adeyanju was the one who brought Indigo dye into Abeokuta. Our clothes are premium in making, it does not flow nor tear. Iyabode Sunmonu was a great teacher that taught us about both the plant indigo and the modern art of Indigo.

The title of Iyaloja in Itoku Market is rotated amongst three families: Jojoola (The first Iyalode/Iyalooja), Akaamo, and Sowetan. The present Iyaloja is from the Akaamo’s family. This area is called Kenta Idaaro.

Sometimes ago we talked about modernising this art of Kampala making using machines to do most of the work so we will just be monitoring it. The elderly women in the trade said no that it will take away jobs. Which is why we have not moved from this phase. There should be machines to do these because machines print clothes. Most of the fabrics we used comes from Kano, Cotonou, we use solid guinea brocade.

The Tie and Dye Process

As the are folding the clothes, they will put it in starch. We use fabrics like Daviva, Evaporated, cotton materials in short.

They will first of all design the material by tying them up before soaking in starch. Starch makes the dye to penetrate and stay in the clothes.  Some materials are first starched before designing, while some are soaked in water before soaked in dye, this allows for better penetration of the dye.

After been soaked in dye it is now spread out to dry off. After drying, one need to properly shake off the stones and dirts on the materials which are glued on as a result of the starch and where the cloth is spread.

If not carefully done, it leads to the materials getting torn. We package and sell them at different trade fairs and other sales avenue. This work is capital intensive, we need loans which are not very good for us. There are too many people in the market now. People from the market brings in their materials for us to dye for them. Most of them do not make dye but just sales, she conclude as she speaks on the challenges in the business.

Elsat Kampala with her own mother, whom she learnt the trade from.

For your kampala need, be it for business or party, do contact: Elsat Kampala on 0808 827 9198 or 0906 607 4358


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