There are apparently Ifa verses relating to the creation of our Hand Dyed Adire Indigo technique, Our ancestors made and wore Adire , first dyeing indigenous fabric like kijipa with indigo dye from homegrown  plants, and later dyeing imported cotton fabric . Early 1900s photos of market places in Yorubaland exist where almost everyone is wearing indigo dyed clothing. 

 After decades of succumbing to the lure of Western fabric  and faux African print i.e. Ankara , we are falling in love again with our Indigo print , and that is in no small way due to the part played by Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye who never tired or relented in showcasing Adire in every which way, through art, her flamboyant head gear, beautiful clothing, teaching school, art gallery,  regular media appearances and support for any artistes who showed even a glimmer of interest.



Along with designers like Ade Bakare, Maki Oh and Deola Sagoe she has done a good job of keeping the embers of our Adire heritage burning.

So much so that now Adire pops up on rucksacks , swimsuits, shoes, and garments  most probably made in China and profits most likely enjoyed in USA. 



Local dying and weaving skills are an inspiration for the fashion world — but are the rewards shared?


A Woodin advert below ( part of the Dutch Vlisco fabric group) shows how the company  replicates adire patterns on fabric (in China or Holland or wherever) and sells back to West Africans . Jobs and profit for the Western world made possible by love of Indigo. Sure they employ Africans as well, but indigenous communities with families creating Adire the ancient traditional  authentic Yoruba way struggle to get even water for their daily use, or educate and train their kids. 


Local dying and weaving skills are an inspiration for the fashion world — but are the rewards shared?

Of course nobody can stop another person creating their own version of Adire, I’m not sure there is ( or should be) a legal way to stop that.

Majority of people buying so called African print believe they are wearing fabric made in Africa and by Africans. They wear them to feel connected to their heritage. They are being sold a lie. Shouldn’t the world be able to tell authentic and indigenous Adire from mass produced varieties, and determine their preference with an informed choice? So that only Adire produced in the Adire communities of Yorubaland can be called Adire. The rest can be called “Adire-inspired”, and may only be similar but not  blatantly copying exact patterns that another person painstakingly created centuries ago under the hot sun of Itokun/Abeokuta/Osogbo etc.

Protecting the Adire heritage from appropriation can be done . Look at the Harris Tweed Act  below protecting British  indigenous fabric Harris Tweed from copying attacks. You can tell your factory in China to make your fabric look just like Harris Tweed, but you can never call your product Harris Tweed without facing the law! In this way greedy corporations  are prevented from getting a free ride on the hard work of the Outer Hebrides islanders. And customers who love Harris Tweed can seek it out and be sure they are buying the genuine article, and the weaving community prospers.  Simple!

Harris Tweed Act

The definition of Harris Tweed contained in the Harris Tweed Act 1993 clearly defines Harris Tweed as a tweed which –

“(a) has been handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the outer hebrides, finished in the outer hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the outer hebrides; and”
“(b) possesses such further characteristics as a material is required to possess under regulations from time to time in force under the provisions of schedule 1 to the act of 1938 (or under regulations from time to time in force under any enactment replacing those provisions) for it to qualify for the application to it, and use with respect to it, of a harris tweed trade mark.”

The act also set out –

“to make provision for the establishment of a Harris Tweed Authority to promote and maintain the authenticity, standard and reputation of Harris Tweed; for the definition of Harris Tweed; for preventing the sale as Harris Tweed of material which does not fall within the definition; for the Authority to become the successor to The Harris Tweed Association Limited; and for other purposes incidental thereto.”


So clearly, it is possible, we just need our Yoruba lawmakers to be motivated…. the sooner the better!





DAWN Commission’s post on Chief Nike Davies Okundaye



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