Have Ingenious Adire Designs Faded? By Chydy Njere

Have Ingenious  Adire Designs Faded? By Chydy Njere

But for Akerele Street, you would think it is over for adire clothing. All of a sudden, original adire- batik and tie and dye are no longer on display?

What with the massive importation of foreign designs into the country? Everyone seem to own one. Just look around you. Bolts of imported designs, sometimes as far as from Indonesia littering our stores and stalls makes one cringe. It looks like everyone is forgetting that the frail hands of poor Abeokuta women and the dye-calloused hands of men at the dyeing pits of Kano are still churning out beautiful coloured yarns that had clothed generations before now.

Surulere used to be adire headquarters. It still is.
Well, you may mean Akerele Street, because if you go through Bank Olemoh, out to Randle, Benson, in short the whole of Gbaja axis you will see what I am telling you. You can count how many there are left- I mean doing the native thing. Everyone stocks and displays imported batik, tie and dye.

Some might still be at Aguda, especially around the dye pits at the end of Madariola by Adetola St. Remember that whole stretch of fenced land used to be a bee hive of activity for clothes dyeing.

No, that spot is dead, all those from there down, inside, until you come out to Pako, though I think some group of Malians are still holed up there on that street before Pako bus stop. But going through, down to Cele bustop on the way to Sanya before the expressway; they have all dried up. I saw it coming.
How, when?

Adire used to be the dress style of artists. And we were doing well, making and wearing our own fabrics. It was easy, mix colours and pronto- what you see is what you get. This dearth started when we moved up the scale in our creativity and few celebrities began to adorn it. Not to be beaten, fashion houses began to make dangerous styles with international flair to it. The craze raged. It grew and Big men began to wear adire. Everyone queued in.

Nhm? Is it not good for our economy? Made in Nigeria goods? Produce what you eat, wear what you make, use what you have here, create employment.

That is the problem. Jingles, Jingles, Jingles. For where? Sometimes it is hard to marry actions with words. The patronage is not out of love for our products or loyalty to Fatherland. Not patriotism. It is the bandwagon effect, the you- must-be-here-and-there-ness of life, fair weather business-ing, the up-line-down-line-networking fad- business while the fun lasts.

Ha ha ha. Don’t go there. Is it paining you? Join them and stop whining.
Not if I still have my head on my neck. I think the love for adire caved in when cheaper Ankara materials entered and the few textiles still operating began copying and duplicating indigenous batik designs.

Confusion. That’s how someone would now mistake proper stealing for market competition.
Yes, a lady from Malta on an exchange program writing her master’s thesis on taxation opted to visit the small market at Gbaja shopping mall. There, she became friends with the market women who on her last day in Nigeria decided to show her a little of the Nigerian hospitality and what else to give but our own adire. But their well-intentioned good failed because they went for a mere look-alike. And the manner of grabbing her neck from behind and forcing the gown over her head was a typical show of Nigerian cordiality.
From Malta, what was her reaction?

At first, suppressed fear, then surprise. Nevertheless the dear lady was in tears by their generosity. She was happy ever after promising to return the gesture. She must have tried to. Well, that was then.

Not now. The price of the fabric for adire has more than doubled. First, the textile industries died. Fabrics disappeared. Dollar fell, and the cost of imported dye skyrocketed. Buyers stayed away and the dye pits went dry. The dyers drifted away and sellers replaced them with what was available and affordable. Only those with die hard love for the handmade designs are courageous enough to continue.

And where are those foreigners who made fortune during the boom era of tie and dye in Lagos? Those men from the Gambia, Senegal, Mali?
Yes, I know. Even some from Ghana. Where have they gone to? There used to be many of them living in Surulere. The men did the dyeing and the women made the ties and the selling. Yes, they have left now. Time changes things. Even Mr B has moved. To where? Abeokuta.

Oh, someone must have hired him to work in the adire pits of Abeokuta. No, he is employed as a security guard at a factory.
Ah, ah, as frail as he is? How will he cope with visitors?
Don’t forget he has a good command of the English language. He complained bitterly about the lack of clients and how it was getting difficult even to buy food to eat.

And he would not go back to Gambia?

No, all his family are here. He had all his children here and unfortunately only the last one went to school.
Shaa, work is work. As long as it is honest and genuine work, nothing God will frown at.
Kai, it used to fun way back o. What about the romance that flourished between countries then?
You mean?
The inter-national marriages that soared when many of the aboki-like mallams began to marry from here. Nigerian ladies as far as from Delta State down south became Gambian and Senegalese wives.
Oh. It bore fruits, yielded results.
Ehn, now that they are gone?
I’m sure our kith and kin in the African diaspora will represent us well. Nigerian wives will do us proud, especially if they insist on their children going to school. See, this trade can be upgraded using modern technology.
That’s the point I’m making, no griping. With the ongoing creative revolution among young talented technology- savvy-achievement-minded youths breathing fresh ideas into this trade, a whole new trend will emerge.

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