‘Adi’, meaning ‘to tie’ and ‘re’ which means to dye’ is the name given to indigo-dyed cloth produced by the Yoruba of South Western Nigeria using a variety of resist-dye techniques that reﬂect the culture, language and art tradition of the Yoruba people. Te tradition of indigo dyeing goes back centuries in West Africa. Te earliest known example is a cap from the Dogon kingdom in Mali dating to the 11th century, dyed in the oniko style. Te earliest pieces of this type were probably simple tied designs on cotton cloth handspun
and woven locally (rather like those still produced in Mali), but in the early decades of the 20th century new access to large quantities of imported shirting material via the spread of European textile merchants in Abeokuta and other Yoruba towns caused a boom in these women’s entrepreneurial and artistic eﬀorts, making adire a major local craf in Abeokuta and Ibadan, attracting buyers from all over West Africa. Abeokuta is considered to be the capital of adire making in Nigeria
Today, there are three primary resist techniques used in Nigeria: Oniko: this process involves tying rafa around hundreds of individual corn kernels or pebbles to produce small white circles on a blue background. Te fabric can also be twisted and tied on itself or folded into stripes.
Alabere: Stitching rafa onto the fabric in a pattern prior to dyeing. Te rafa palm is stripped, and the spine sewn into the fabric. Afer dyeing the rafa is usually ripped out, although some choose to leave it in and let wear and tear on the garment slowly reveal the design. Eleko: Resist dyeing with cassava paste painted onto the fabric. Traditionally done with diﬀerent size chicken feathers, calabash carved into diﬀerent designs are also used, in a
manner similar to block printing. Since the early twentieth century, metal
stencils cut from the sheets of tin that lined tea
chests have also been used Te major Yoruba cities traditionally noted and recognised for Adire are Abeokuta, Ede, Ibadan, Ondo and Osogbo. Of all the centers, Osogbo is traditionally renowned as the home of indigo, and the “home of dyeing”; “Osogbo ilu aro” and the people are so good as dyers as to elicit the Yoruba saying “Aro nbe l’Osogbo, omo eniyan ni mbe nile Ibadan,” translating it is Indigo dominates Osogbo, Adire wrappers were sold as far away as Ghana, Senegal, and the Congo. At the height of Adire production in the 1920s, Senegalese merchants came to Abeokuta to buy as many as 2,000 wrappers in one day from the female traders. In recent times however, political fgures and celebrities have worn Adire-inspired clothes.