“Pattern dyeing in Indigo is a technique known to several West African tribes, notably the Sarankole of French Guinea, the Tiv of Benue region and the Yoruba of Western Nigeria.
Two entirely different techniques of pattern dyeing are practised by Yoruba women. The first method consists of sewing or tying the cloth together in certain places before dyeing. In this way patches of cloth will remain untouched by the indigo vat and will appear as a white pattern on the dark blue cloth. This is the original method as the Yoruba name batik indicates. “Adire” means literally: to take, to tie and dye.
The second method, which is called “adire eleko” is not older than 1910. It seems that it was first practiced in Lagos and Abeokuta . This method consists of painting a pattern in starch cloth. The starch acts as a resist to the dye, and if after dyeing the cloth is washed, the pattern again appears in white on an almost black background.
The starch used for painting these patterns is cassava flour and it can be obtained in the market under the name of “lafun”. The “lafun” must be boiled together with alum to make a thick pudding. If no alum were added, the starch would dissolve in the indigo vat. The boiled starch is now called “Eko” and will be wrapped in “Ketemfe” leaves. In this way it will keep fresh for a couple of weeks, provided that the leaves are occasionally renewed.
Before applying the “eko” to it the cloth must not be washed. The design is always drawn on the starchy side.
To paint the pattern on cloth, a stencil may be used. Zinc or lead sheets are normally used.
One of the most famous stencil pattern is the coronation “adire”, of which there are many versions.
The drawing of the design is a far more laborious process when no stencil is used. The result, however, can be more alive and more attractive.
Usually a woman employs a number of children who help her in drawing the design. They are trained in this way to become “aladire”.
Each “adire eleko” has a special name, and each design on it also has a name. It is interesting to discover, that what seems to the stranger’s eye to be an abstract pattern, is really a representative drawing . Two of the most attractive “adire” are “eiyepe” and ” ibadandun”.
“Eiyepe” means ” All birds are here” . The various patterns on this cloth are called as follows:
Top line : Oni….Crocodile
Second line: Tadi reke…. A dance in which the dancer bends down low
Third line: Alangba….Lizard
Fourth line: Oga …..Chameleon
Fifth Line: Eiye Alapa… Bird with wings
Sixth line : Eiye rubutu…..A stout bird
Bottom Line: Oni…..Crocodile
“Ibadandun”, which can be roughly translated as ” we enjoy Ibadan” is an even more complex “adire”. Each line has got four distinct patterns, which are then repeated again on the second half of the cloth. Here are the names of the pattern:
Top line, left to right:
Pele oyo … A certain facial mark common in parts of Oyo
Sokoto.. Yoruba trousers
Ma fowo jepa ….” Do not spend money on eating ground nuts”
The four patterns are then repeated on the right half of the cloth.
Second line, left to right:
Eiye alapa… A bird with wings
Gilasi……the Yoruba version of the English word “glass”
Aburanda …the Yoruba version of the English word “Umbrella”
Oke mapo….. Mapo hill
The four patterns are then side of the cloth
Third line, left to right:
Oke mapo… Mapo hill
Waka…a Mohammedan writing tablet
Opon iro…… Writing slate
Waya……Yoruba version of the English word “wire”
Fourth line, left to right:
Ogede …. Plantain
Eiye ogongo ….Ostrich
Ejo …… Snake
Igi ….. Tree
Fifth line,left to right:
Opon iro….. Writing slate
Ibo……name given to certain types of embroidery found on men’s gowns
Eiye abuke …. Hunchback bird
Shenge …. Another type of Adire
Sixth line, left to right.
Oke mapo….. Mapo hill
Ogede were …..Small banana
Bottom line, left to right
Sokoto ….Yoruba trousers
Eiye ogongo ……. Ostrich
All patterns are repeated “