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Published: 22 May 2021

By Andy Ross

Discovering Textiles - indigo dyeing in Kano

Indigo dyeing in Nigeria has been going on for more than five hundred years, if a date, 1498, on the entrance to the dye pits is to be believed. 

Now the pits are under the control of a state tourism organisation and have suffered from the insurrection in that part of the country, but the pits once were used to dye cloth for royalty and for nomadic Tuareg who, when they wore and used the unfixed cloths, acquired a blue tint. These are some of the most ancient dye pits in existence and the bold designs of the characteristic cloths have been valued for centuries. The craft is mainly passed down through families and one of the problems facing it is a lack of people entering the industry because there is access to better-paid jobs for young people in towns and cities. Another problem is cheaper imports of similar coloured cloth; a world-wide problem for fabrics with a high cost of production, but it seems that the decline began a long time ago, during the colonial era. 

The natural indigo produced by the talaki shrub is beautiful and deep. It would be very sad if this craft died out and was lost to the world. 

 

(Photograph on this page courtesy of Funmi Ajala Travels.)