Adire (wrapper cloth), Yoruban (Nigeria), 20th cent., cotton and indigo dye, 160.2 x 119.3 cm, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC
The elaborate patterns on adire are created by taking a commercially produced cotton cloth, and painting or stenciling on a resist (typically made from cassava starch), or by carefully knotting portions of the fabric, and then immersing and re-immersing the cloth in indigo dye. The brightness of the smaller white circles on this particular adire are a result of their having only been immersed in the dye once.
Adire were first produced in quantity in the nineteenth century (driven largely by West African markets), only to see output dwindle to a trickle by World War II. Traditionally adire were worn by women, but after the revival of adire production in the ’60s, adire became multifunctional. Designs range from relatively simple, as shown here, to spectacularly elaborate. Despite the revival of the tradition, it has yet to regain its former glory. The inferiority of a great deal of post WWII adire is a result of the introduction of synthetic products to the creation process, and a preference by many consumers for multi-colored kampala cloths.