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Batik is the process of creating designs using wax. Instructor Gasali Adeyemo will lead this very special Global Harmony workshop, teaching his Nigerian Yoruba tribe process of “adire alabela’, which means wax resist, using primarily foam rubber to apply the design to the fabric free-hand. The wax can be applied to the fabric using wood stamps, stencils, or foam rubber.
“When teaching I always begin by telling the students a little about myself and my culture; I explain the meanings behind the designs I am teaching them. I give a short demonstration of the methods before the students begin,” he says.
“I believe that batik is the way of creating so many beautiful colors. When I teach I always tell my students ‘when you first start your batik process and you want many colors you should make sure you leave some space for the next color to be applied’,” Gasali says. Traditionally, in Nigeria, the dye used for batik fabrics is Jaman dye or Prosion dye, which are both colored dyes. However, indigo is currently the common dye used.
After the fabric has been dyed, the wax must be removed. When removing the wax from a piece that has been dyed the fabric should be almost dry so that the color has time to set. To remove the wax, the fabric must be put into a large pot of boiling water to which 3 or 4 tablespoons of a mild, bleach free detergent has been added. After the fabric gets immersed in the boiling water for a few minutes it then gets placed in a large pot of cold water and gently agitated to remove any remaining wax. The fabric is then hung out to dry.
About the dye used in his process, Gasali says, “The primary dye I use in my workshops is Indigo. Indigo has been used as a dye in Africa for at least 200 years. The Yoruba name for indigo is “elu”. Since the olden days indigo has been used for medicine as well as a dye; it cures an upset stomach. Indigo is also used to ward off viruses; houses are painted with indigo to prevent the sickness from entering.”
Indigo is an organic substance, it comes from the indigo plant which grows wild in Nigeria. During the beginning of the rainy season the leaves are harvested and then dried. After they have dried they are formed into little balls which are then used to prepare the dye.
About the instructor (in his own words):
I am the third born of five from a small rural village, Ofatedo, located in Osun State Nigeria. My mother is a trader and my father, a farmer. Although my family was rich in spirit and culture, we were poor in capital and I sponsored my own education throughout my years at St. George Elementary and Ido Osun High School.
From a very young age, I realized my artistic potential and I would attend social gatherings, such as weddings, naming and burial ceremonies, and other cultural parties offering to sketch portraits of the guest, for a small donation. My sketching career combined with long, hard days working on the village farms provided adequate income to successfully complete my academic education through high school.
At this point, my attention turned to improving upon my artistic potential. I discovered the Nike Center for Arts and Culture in 1990, where I remained for a total of six years. The first two years of my experience at the Nike Center was spent mastering the arts of batik painting on fabric, indigo dyeing, quilt making, embroidery, appliqué, and batik painting on rice paper. During the following four years, I spent long days teaching these skills to incoming students at the Nike Center.
Eventually, the popularity of the Nike Center grew and hundreds of people came to Osogbo, Nigeria from all over the world to study and enrich their knowledge and understanding of the arts and culture of the Yoruba people. I spent much of my time conducting workshops and training these people in the crafts of my culture.
In 1995, my long years of service and dedication to the Nike Center paid off, and my artwork was exhibited in Bayreuth, Germany alongside the work of five other artists from Nigeria. My work made quite an impact, and many people traveled to Osogbo looking for the artist named Gasali. People who were exposed to my work later commissioned me to do quilt work and other pieces and my artistic career truly began to bloom.
In 1996, the opportunity arose to travel outside of Nigeria for the first time in my life. A woman named Karen came to Osogbo, Nigeria through an exchange program from America. We met and did workshops together. Impressed with my work, she invited me to come to the University of Iowa to do a series of exhibitions and workshops. Once there, the Octagon Gallery in Ames, Iowa took notice of my work and offered to exhibit it. I was also invited to work with a group of teenagers doing storytelling and art workshops to share with them the traditions of my own Yoruba culture.
These experiences in Iowa opened the door to greater opportunities. I have traveled the world conducting more workshops and exhibitions. My recent workshops include the World Batik Conference, Cross Culture Collaborative Inc., Snow Farm, and Fiber Arts Center. In the future, I plan to continue to travel worldwide, sharing the arts and culture of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. I currently reside in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Gasali Adeyemo has extensive experience teaching workshops and exhibiting his work, which you can view here.