The Art of Adire: An Introduction

Introduction: Last year October, 2016, Carib Fiber Arts began an instructional series on Nigerian adire cloth making via an overview video. Today, we follow through on our promise to provide instruction on making adire cloth. The Art of Adire is the first article, and, in it, we propose to discuss the definition and methods of adire. Subsequent articles will, hopefully, examine each method and its process. 

Resist dyeing is unique to no nation, and is likely one of the most ancient methods of surface design. In West Africa, evidence of adire oniko (bound resist) in use in the 11th century was noted on a cap found in the Tellem caves in Mali. The provenance of other forms of adire may not be so clear cut; for example, previous to the “early 1900s” there was no evidence of adire eleko (paste resist) in Africa. 

So, then, one must ask, what is this adire? Adire is the Yoruba resist dyeing surface design method. The word adire is a Yoruba term formed from "two Yoruba words: ‘adi’ meaning to tie and ‘re’ meaning to dye" fabric using techniques such as batik, binding, stitching, clamping, and stenciling. 

Research has determined that there are six broad categories of adire: adire oniko—raffia or thread resist; adire eleso—seed or stone resist; adire eleko—starch or glue resist; adire alabela—wax resist; discharge dyeing—color subtraction via bleach or other colorant removal; and, factory printing.

This series of articles will explore five of the six broad categories (the exception is factory printing adire), and hopefully provide accompanying videos, in order to provide the readership with the means of creating with adire


Adedotun, Amubode Adetoun, Adebowale Kehinde Kabirat & Awosika Bridget Itunu. Consumers’ Acceptability and Creative Use of Local Fabrics as Graduation Gown for Primary School PupilsReview of Arts and Humanities December 2015, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 81-89 ISSN: 2334-2927 (Print), 2334-2935 (Online) Published by American Research Institute for Policy Development DOI: 10.15640/rah.v4n2a9 URL:

Areo, Margaret Oluwagbemisola, Rasaq Olatunde, Rom Kalilu. Paradigmatic Appraisal of Techniques and Technology of Adire in the Last Five Decades. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol. 3, No 15, 2013.

Hans, M. A. Patterns of Culture: Techniques of Decoration and Coloration. U. of Leeds, 2005.

Kashim, I. B.,  Adiji. B. E, and Oladumiye, E. B. The Impact of Cottage Textile Industries on Students’ of Textile Designs in Tertiary Institutions in South Western Nigeria. Education Research Journal. Vol. 2(3), pp. 75-86, March 2012.

The History of Adire Textile. Bellafricana Digest.