Wrapper, 'adire oniko', indigo-dyed cotton, made by a Yoruba woman, Western Nigeria, 1950-1966
This 'adire oniko' cloth, patterned with three large tie-dyed circles, was produced in West Africa by a female Yoruba indigo-dyer, during the 1950s or 1960s. Cloths like this were worn by either men or women, wrapped around the body and secured by twisting the ends of the cloth together. This is still the most common method of wearing adire cloths today.
Since 1960, when Nigeria gained independence, the popularity of adire cloth has increased enormously. It is now also used for European style clothing and head-ties, while special cloths are made for religious celebrations.
'Adire' refers to a cloth that has been patterned by the technique of resist dyeing with indigo. 'Oniko' refers to the resist dyeing process of tying a pattern into the cloth prior to dyeing. Yoruba mothers taught this process to their daughters from a very early age. During the dyeing, women regularly made offerings to the Goddess Iya Mapo, who was thought to assist them throughout the process.
The cloth is part of a collection of West African textiles, spindles, hand spun yarn and a thorn carving collected in West Africa by Dr C Marion Petrie. Dr Petrie was an employee of the British Colonial Service in Nigeria and Ghana between 1957 and 1966.
This blue and white indigo-dyed "adire" cloth was tie-dyed using the "adire oniko" dye-resist technique by Yoruba women. It was made in Western Nigeria in the 1950s or 1960s. "Adire" refers to a cloth that has been patterned by the technique of resist dyeing with indigo. Yoruba women extracted dye from the 'elu' (Lonchocarpus cyanescens) vine. After collecting the vine leaves, the women pounded them into a pulp and formed them into fist-sized balls. The process of dyeing that followed was lengthy, but essentially involved mixing the dye with a mordant (metallic salt dye fixative) extracted from ash, and then dyeing the cloth.
This cloth is an example of an "adire oniko", "oniko" referring to the process of tying a pattern onto the cloth prior to dyeing. This effect can be achieved by pressing the finger through the cloth, and then tightly tying this area with cotton or raffia to prevent any dye from entering the area. Pebbles or seeds are often used to create the same effect. During the dyeing process, the tied areas absorb no dye; the pattern is revealed when the ties are removed. When the cloth is dry, it is placed over a flat log and beaten with a wooden mallet, a process that produces a high sheen on the cloth due to the large amounts of indigo dye used.
This 'adire oniko' cloth was produced in West Africa by a female Yoruba indigo-dyer during the 1950s or 1960s. This particular example might have been created for personal use or to sell.
This cloth is part of a collection of 33 objects, consisting of West African textiles, spindles, hand spun yarn and a thorn carving, which were collected in West Africa between 1957 and 1966 by Dr C Marion Petrie. Dr Petrie was employed by the British Colonial Service in government and university posts in various towns in Nigeria and Ghana. She collected textiles and other items for her own enjoyment in markets and from traders and subsequently the family of Dr C.M.Petrie donated them to the National Textile Museum in Adelaide. When the National Textile Museum closed in 1999, this collection was transferred to the Powerhouse Museum.