Nigerian artist revives ancient art of tie and dye cloth making

OSUN - The town of Osogbo in Nigeria&39;s south-west region is one of the few places in the West African country where traditional textile production is being kept alive.
Spread out on the grass are fabrics waiting to go through the tie and dye process that will transform them into what the Yoruba call &39;adire&39;.
 
Located more than 200 kilometres from commercial capital, Lagos, is Nike Okundaye&39;s tie and dye workshop where she teaches her students how to make adire.
 
"Adire comes from the Yoruba society and the natural cassava paste. So everything here is hand made with organic materials. We use the feather to do all the designs and each one of these designs have a name to go with them, for example, this is a talking drum," explains Nike.
 
Under Nike&39;s careful watch, the students learn to create unique patterns using candle wax which ensures the design lasts for a long time without fading.
 
"She&39;s doing the &39;shekere&39; design. Shekere is the cowrie shell," Nike says as she explains what each student is working on.
 
A vital ingredient needed to make adire is indigo dye which is harvested locally. The students gather the leaves while teaches them to mash them together to produce the blue dye.
"It&39;s becoming blue. This is just a fresh leaf." 
 
The textile designer who has been involved in tie and dye for over a decade is focused on improving the lives of Nigerian women through art.
She teaches people how to make &39;adire&39; in order for them to be able to earn a living. She has trained over 4,000 women from across the country.
 
"The water we use from the indigo is the ashes from the cocoa pod. What we do here is to use the traditional method which is medicinal," Nike further explains.
 
"It can take almost 10 to 15 dippings before we can get it dark like this. Dyeing this, it&39;s very, very delicate. In five seconds you have to take it out because it cannot stay long inside the dye," Nike explains.
 
The art of adire making has existed for thousands of years long before the colonial period. Adire was common in the ancient kingdoms in the region and was an integral part of the cultural and religious life here.
 
The traditional religion is part of us, it&39;s our culture, it&39;s our heritage, it&39;s our crown, we must always carry it because if we don&39;t, this culture will die off.
 
 
Across Osogbo, other artists and designers have began using adire. Oyebamiji Oyeniyi is a textile artist who started his adire business three years ago after training with Nike. Most outfits cost between 2,500 naira ($12 U.S.) to 7,000 naira ($43 U.S.) depending on the intricacy of the design.
 
Still, the new adire resurgence faces several challenges. Over the years, Nigerians have embraced more western styles and cheaper imports from countries like China.
The long process involved in making traditional material has also led many to abandon the use of adire.
Nike, however, believes with the right support, a viable local textile industry can be developed.
 
"We need more government support by creating textile industry in Nigeria because they have to create the plain fabric for us to work and the hand woven that we are doing is taking a longer time and we would like if they can get more of the factories to be using our traditional design so everybody can be wearing adire. If you have 500 (3 U.S. dollars) you will be able to wear adire, they love it," Nike says.
 
At the end of the day, accompanied by her students, Nike goes down to the river to pray. She says she finds inspiration from the Osun river goddess whom followers believe rescues people faced with hunger, poverty and infertility.
With the help of the goddess, the 63-year-old artist is determined that the traditional art of adire does not die out and is preserved for future generations.