Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Adire eleko and batik with Gasali Adeyemo, Part I

A couple of weekends ago, I had the opportunity to take a Maiwa workshop on adire eleko (cassava resist) and batik dyeing with Gasali Adeyemo.  Gasali is a wonderful dyer and part of a generation of Nigerian textile artists who are working to preserve and perpetuate traditional Yoruba indigo dyeing techniques, as well as explore new possibilities within Yoruba idioms.  His work is truly beautiful, and I couldn't resist splurging on one of his large pieces of adire eleko:

Adire eleko uses cassava paste, applied with a chicken feather or a straw from a broom stick, to lay down a resist.  The resist is somewhat permeable, which results in the blue-on-blue patterning, rather than the higher contrast of batik.

Gasali's sample: adire eleko, prior to dyeing
My own amateurish efforts, which betray a decidedly shaky hand, suffer even more by comparison (indeed, it's not worth comparing).  I don't actually draw all that well with a pencil, much less a chicken feather, but I had fun giving adire eleko a try.  The resist is hard to lay down--sort of like trying to draw a bead with caulk, which I'm also bad at.  Batik was a little easier for me, although I had a hard time knowing whether the wax on my foam "pen" was hot enough to apply, and I certainly couldn't produce consistently fine lines.  I'm embarrassed to show my adire eleko and batik samples, but here they are anyway:

adire eleko sample
adire eleko, sample 2
batik sample
At least my work conveys how difficult it is to apply these techniques in a refined manner, and how much practice it takes.  Gasali's artistry is truly impressive!

Gasali's batik demo: such skilled and confident lines!
In the classroom, Gasali deliberately adopts a slower pace, and he approaches both indigo dyeing and life with a warm and happy attitude.  He also makes sure that students learn about the place of indigo and textiles in Yoruba culture, rather than focusing purely on techniques.  We learned a few words of Yoruba, and we spent some time just sitting around and having a relaxed conversation about Gasali's home village and life in Nigeria.  Gasali also told us a lot about the work of the Nike Center for Art and Culture (Nike: first syllable--ee as in "leek"; second syllable like "kay"), founded by Nike Davies Okundaye to revive traditional Yoruba arts.  Gasali studied there, and he now works out of his own studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The two-day workshop was a welcome break from my too-busy and frenetic way of things, and a reminder of the virtues of slowing down for a bit and taking the time to truly appreciate and enjoy life.  Instead of feeling tired from a hard day's work, I left each day of the class feeling re-energized and inspired.  Indeed, I made further progress on my indigo quilt top in the evenings after the workshop, as well as nearly every day for the past two weeks.  What a wonderful experience!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network and Freshly Pieced.  There's more to say about Gasali's workshop--stay tuned!


  1. I don't think you have anything to be embarrassed about - your samples look great! Sounds like you had a great time at the workshop

  2. Your adire looks great to me! Look forward to your experiments with a zinc lime vat. :)

  3. Dear Mr/Madame,
    I’m interesting to learn the Adire Eleko batik method. Adire Eleko is beautiful cloth too like Indonesian batik.
    Please give me the information about “How To Make Adire Eleko cloth” :
    1. how to prepare the paste ( only use the cassava flour or add the other chemical like copper sulphate or alum and the others ?),
    2. how to draw designs and what are tools used to draw,
    3. how to dye the resisted cloth in indigo and how to seal the color (so that the color does not fade),
    4. and finally, how to remove the cassava from the finished work
    I hope you give me the information.Thanks

    1. Adire eleko is different from batik, in that the resist is not as strong, so that indigo dyeing produces a pale blue against a dark blue background, rather the whiter resist the wax provides. The paste is made from cassava flour, alum, blue alum or lemon juice, and water (a ratio of about 2:1 water to cassava), whisked together until smooth, and then heated until the consistency of a thicker gravy. To apply the paste, you pour some onto a plate, mix and flatten it out a little with a spoon, and then use the feather end of a chicken feather (!) to pick up some paste and apply the designs. Your drawing tool is therefore very simple, but it is extremely difficult to draw the designs with Gasali's skill and confidence. After your design is applied and the paste is dry, the indigo dyeing begins. For advice on setting up an indigo vat, download the guides available at Your should dry your fabric thoroughly between dips. If the vat is set up and balanced properly (right pH and proper degree of reduction), the color should not fade. The cassava is removed simply by scraping it off while the fabric is wet--if you have two assistants, have them hold the fabric taut, and then scrape it off with the dull side of a knife. Good luck!