Master adire artist Gasali Adeyemo creates beautiful fabric and clothing using a technique he learned in his native Nigeria. He specializes in indigo dyes because of their cultural importance to his people, and each textile has traditional Yoruba designs, with symbolic and biographical meanings. Growing up, Adeyemo’s creative inspiration was his mother, who made clothing for him and the rest of their family.
“Most of the materials I use grow around my village,” says Adeyemo. “Cotton, for example, is grown nearby and made into the fabric that I use for my work.” The artist gets pigment for his fabrics from wild indigo plants, which only grow during the rainy season and are treated with special reverence. To make his traditional adire pieces, Adeyemo makes a resist paste with cassava root—which, coincidentally, is also an important part of the Nigerian diet.
In adire, different designs are applied to the fabric, each bearing special meaning. Batik is the process of creating designs using either beeswax or paraffin wax, heated and applied to fabric using wood stamps, stencils, or foam rubber. After creating the design on the fabric, the piece is dyed and wax is removed, leaving behind gorgeously patterned areas of vibrant color. In the adire technique, patterns are created by hand with cassava paste, after which the cloth is dyed and the cassava is scraped away. Adeyemo is also adept at tie-dye. “My mother was the most important teacher in my life,” maintains Adeyemo. “She gave me a love of fiber art which began by just watching her and learning the designs and what they represented.”
Now, Adeyemo spends as much time as he can with young artists, encouraging them to preserve and cherish the fantastically beautiful artistic techniques of the Yoruba tribe.