Adire Oloba

One of the most distinctive Yoruba textiles is a dyed cloth known as Adire. Adire is the name given to all resist-dyed cloth, but it is more specifically reserved for cloth that uses blue indigo dye. Dying a cloth with indigo was initially a way of reusing and strengthening a cloth, but Adire rapidly became desirable cloths in their own right. The main body of the cloth is two pieces of shirting material sewn together to form a rough square. This cloth was dyed, always by women, in large earthenware vats. The indigo for the dye grows freely in the northern Yoruba districts. Bundles of indigo leaves and caustic soda would be boiled in water before the prepared cloth was added.

Patterns in Adire are created before the dying process. There are two basic forms: Adire Oniko and Adire Eleko. Adire Oniko uses raffia or stitch resist. Either small items such as pebbles are tied into the cloth (Adire Eleso) or the cloth is tightly bound so that areas are left undyed (Adire Ẹlẹlọ). Similar principles apply to stitch resist. The cloth is folded and stitched to create pattern resists (Ẹlẹsun). Adire Eleko is made by applying a starch resist. It probably originated in 1910. Ẹlẹko takes two forms, either hand-painted or stencilled. The hand-painted form is predominantly from Ibadan, but stencils became the speciality of Abeokuta. The tin from packing cases was used to create stencils for the elaborate designs. 

This cloth carries a stencilled design known as Ọlọba (literally: “it has king”). It is also referred to as Jubilee. The central figures are the British King George V and Queen Mary. Their jubilee anniversary (1935) was celebrated across the British Empire with lithographs and commemorative objects that had the King and Queen as the central figures. The cloth dyers of Abeokuta felt this was an appropriate image for a prestige cloth. Other images are also found on the cloth such as the winged horse Al Baraq, who carried Mohammed to Mecca. The writing refers to the status of the wearer.

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