Adire is a resist-dyed cloth produced and worn by the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria in West Africa. The term adire, which means “tied and dyed,” was first applied to indigo-dyed cloth decorated with resist patterns around the turn of the twentieth century, and back then this practice wasn’t open to everyone.
Adire textile production is assumed to be inborn; inherited by birth and the heritage passed on to descendants of families who were also involved in the production process. In Egba land, the craft was formerly known to be a family business. Parents passed the techniques down to their female children and the wives of their sons. For a long time, people who were not from a certain family were not allowed to partake in adire production as it was a part of the family’s heritage.
The special thing about adire eleko is the fact that each cloth has a special name which is representative of the motifs and patterns, and although the motifs may appear to be abstract symbols to the uninformed, they too have their own name/meaning/proverb. So people are literally telling stories about their clothes.
The adire eleko process is a tedious one which consumes a lot of time because most of the time, the patterns and designs are hand-drawn, though there are some artisans who now make use of stencils in order to save time. These designs/patterns are achieved using bird feathers (Quill), palm leaves or sticks which are dipped into the cassava paste and imprinted on the white cloth.
Before the free-hand process begins (drawing the designs), the white cloth would be marked off into individual squares, and afterward, the drawing of the different patterns will proceed, using either stencils or bird feathers dipped into cassava paste. After the completion of this phase, the paste is left to dry for 3-5 hours, depending on the weather condition.
After the successful completion, the fabrics are immersed in a bath of dye and left for 15-20 minutes. After it has been rinsed out and dried it comes out in this form.
Note: Adire Eleko is traditionally done in indigo color, but can also be dyed in any color of your choice.