Despite its acceptance and popularity, especially in the South-West, the Adire fabric has faced so much ups and downs. KUNLE OLAYENI examines the challenges Adire artists are facing
Despite the general unimpressive state of Nigeria’s textile industry, Adire has proved its resilience, showing great prospects for the revival of the moribund sector. A resist-dyed cloth produced and worn primarily by the Egba people in Ogun State as well as the Jukun in Taraba State, Adire has grown beyond the confines to become a time-tested fad across class and race even beyond Nigeria.
The glamorous tennis sisters; Serena and Venus Williams, on many occasions made some of their kits from the popular Adire fabric. How they achieved that could be another issue entirely. Adire has been embraced all over the globe by people who are not even Nigerians or Africans.
From historical accounts, Adire, which is literally translated as “tie and dye,” was first applied to indigo-dyed cloth decorated with resist patterns in the early 20th century. By the middle of the century, broader colour palette of imported synthetic dyes was reportedly introduced.
The fabric then included a variety of hand-dyed textiles using wax-resist batik methods to produce an array of patterned clothes. It is instructive to note that new access to large quantities of imported material from European textile merchants created a boom in the trade during the period.
Women were mostly involved in the craft at the beginning. Men also joined much later with innovations. As it blossomed, new techniques of dyeing were developed, notably Adire eleko, batik, pattern, tie and dye, alabere and print. The dye came in different hues and colours such as blue, black, purple, red, orange, green, Olive T and brown.
The dye, sulphide and caustic soda are mixed together procedurally and the volume is measured, according to the scale and length of cloth to be dipped inside the concentration. After the cloth is removed from the dye, it is allowed to dry before being immersed in hot water.
The dyed fabric is removed again and subsequently dipped in cold water before it is starched and dried in the sun. Designs are created by simple techniques such as folding, crumpling and randomly sprinkling or splashing the hot wax unto a cloth before dyeing. In the earlier times, a local white cotton cloth known as “Teru” and local dye called “Elu” were usually used for adire production. But nowadays, guinea brocade, Ankara and other fabrics are the common alternatives for the decorating techniques.
Though the process of producing Adire is quite laborious, its dynamism has over the years transformed into an entrepreneurial craft. For casual and formal outings, Adire continues to attract substantial patronage and many people often take delight clad in the textile. However, it seems Adire has not attained its full potential.
Patronage is still low compared to other African textiles such as Ankara and guinea brocade. A visit to Itoku market, the acclaimed home of Adire and Kampala fabrics in Abeokuta revealed much.
The market provides opportunity for different vocations and large volume of business is transacted there every day. People from various parts of the country throng the market to purchase their textiles. Tourists too have identified Adire as a remarkable souvenir item for ages.
But in this age of obsession for western clothes and general lacklustre attitude towards cultural heritage by Nigerians, what chance does Adire have in the country? With the economic recession affecting virtually all sectors, the textile industry is also severely undermined. Several industry stakeholders, who spoke on the development, posited that the craft could thrive well if the government provides adequate incentives for local producers.
They said Adire could create massive employment opportunities if properly harnessed. Advanced countries, especially China, had some time capitalised on the under-utilisation of the local resource and embarked on large scale production of the Adire textile to boost their own economy.
An Adire artist, Ola Adeoye, appealed to government to reposition the local textile in order to compete favourably with foreign textiles. He expressed strong belief that such intervention could help address the worrisome challenge of unemployment. Speaking with New Telegraph, the Babaloja of Kemta Adire Kampala Market in Itoku, Abeokuta, Alhaji Wasiu Erinfolami, lamented the gross neglect of the craft by successive governments. “We want government to simply provide power and water supply to revive the nation’s textile industry.
This will help in ameliorating our condition,” Erinfolami told our correspondent. According to him, the collapse of the textile industry and the attendant over-dependence on imported materials have dealt serious blow to the Adire art. Coupled with high foreign exchange nowadays, he noted that the craft was facing debilitating challenges.
The market leader said the current economic recession in the country had also made sales to drop drastically. He said: “The number one challenge we are facing is materials. Because of rising foreign exchange, we cannot afford to buy those fabrics because of their exorbitant cost.
Imagine the bundle of clothes we were buying at N60,000 at the beginning now being bought at N180,000; definitely the piece of Kampala we were selling at N2,000 would now be sold at N6,000. “In recent past, we used guinea brocade for Adire. But owing to cost, we now embrace Ankara, which is of lower price.
We still use Guinea because there are some customers who prefer it. “The price of dye stuff has also increased because of high dollar rate. Anybody interested in importing dye would first of all source dollar here; he would encounter frustration before achieving that. “Other chemicals like hydro sulphide, soda and candle are all imported.
So, the exchange rate has forced prices upward. Those are some of our challenges. “Locally here, we also have the challenge of water supply. Because of the topography of Abeokuta, which is rocky, our local wells usually dry up in certain season. So, our people now resolved to go to Ogun River and Arakanga water scheme to do their work.
Many times they suffer losses when river torrents wash away their products.” Erinfolami noted that owing to its uniqueness, Adire has succeeded in weathering the storm against foreign competition.
The babaloja decried the failure of government to resuscitate the nation’s textile industry. He said: “The textile industry in Nigeria is dead. Many textile firms that we have in the country now import from China and now put their labels on the imported fabrics. “Government said some time that it was planning to raise $500 million to resuscitate the textile sector but that never happened. “All our textile firms cannot manufacture again owing to a number of challenges.
There is no stable electricity to power their heavy duty machines. If they rely on generator and diesel, they will run into debts. That is why most of the companies manufacturing tyres in Nigeria have relocated abroad.” Erinfolami urged the Ogun State government to help fix the power and water problem confronting the market. He said: “If government is ready, they should do the right thing for us in this area and they would generate huge revenue.”
But some observers posited that local Adire producers have refused to appreciate government efforts. They reckoned that in a bid to reposition and bring the industry to limelight, government constructed a modern market for them located at Asero area in the state capital.
The New Adire Market, built during the administration of former Governor Olusegun Osoba, has rarely been utilised. Most of the Adire producers prefer to operate and stay in Itoku area where, in recognition of the need to further boost the trade, the administration of Governor Ibikunle Amosun constructed an ultra-modern mall in the market.
The malls are yet to be allocated. Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Chief Muyiwa Oladipo, however, said government had invested heavily in the Adire craft by providing necessary facilities and created enabling environment for the traders to thrive. Oladipo said the traders were supposed to maintain the facilities provided by government.
He added: “If the government sinks borehole for them, or there is water supply directly from the Water Corporation and for whatever reason, water supply to that area cuts off, would you attribute that to non-patronage from government? No!
“I believe that government would not provide certain things for you and you still expect government to continue to maintain it for you. They have a union; they should levy themselves as to the maintenance. Government has done its bit in creating an enabling environment. “Itoku area of Abeokuta is one of the areas that got water directly from Arakanga (water scheme). Borehole was also sunk for them.
Government patronises their finished products. “Last year when we had the Drums Festival (in Abeokuta), the Adire traders were well patron ised. Over 500 pieces were bought. When the SOSGFA (Spouses of Ogun State Government Functionaries Association) had their programme last week, all they gave out as souvenir was Adire. “If along the line something crops up and they could not be attended to, they should not heap the blame on government.”
The commissioner, however, restated the commitment of the Amosun administration to ensure that Adire becomes a goldmine. He said: “We are trying to internationalise it; Adire Carnival was held in Austria last year. It is an annual event. Some Ogun State indigenes in the Diaspora are the sponsors. We will be going to France in May to showcase our culture for a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) programme called ‘Africa Week’ and Ogun State will be fully represented. Part of it is to display our richness in Adire craft.”