Lagos is regarded as the commercial nerve center of Nigeria. It is known for its hustle and bustle, as well as an intricate blend of cultures – both local and foreign. Many residents in fact refer to it as no man's land because indigenes from all parts of the country (and outside) have made it home.
The result is a breathtaking kaleidoscope of cultures evidenced – in part – by the regular display of different attires by each cultural unit. One of the most prominent cultures in Lagos is the Yoruba tribe. They are able to lay claim to being the sons of the soil in Lagos, but are accommodating to outsiders.
As a key component of South Western Nigeria, Lagos also shares fashion and cultural trends with adjoining regional states. And one of the most distinctive facets of the Yoruba culture is the Adire art form. From the earliest days of the arrival of foreigners in Nigeria, history has shown that one of the greatest attractions tourists and visitors have found in Nigeria, has been the Adire.
Adire is a unique traditional textile made by the Yorubas, using hand knotted cloths that have been dyed in indigo. The art of making this patterned cloth has been passed down across generations, even though at a time, it suffered a decline in popularity amongst practitioners and its patrons.
Efforts by some celebrated practitioners of this elegant age old art form have however helped to launch a recent renaissance in this field. Most prominent amongst those involved in this re-awakening of interest in the Adire, locally and internationally, has been Nike Davies Okundaye, a strong advocate of African Arts, with a mission to export it to the rest of the world.
She has achieved worldwide recognition for her exceptional artistry in making Adire cloths over a three decade period, and up till date. Her website http://www.nikeart.com provides extensive resources that offer insight into her work – including offering links to other websites which reflect the international appeal she enjoys. This exceptional lady was featured on the cover of The African Courier magazine, in its February / March 2010 issue, with six pages dedicated to a review of her work, including excerpts from an exclusive interview she granted.
Today, Nigerian fashion designers in the 21st century also creatively employ the Adire in evolving a unique range of very fashionable and trendy African designs, which are regularly showcased in fashion show catwalks across Africa and even beyond. This is one of the great benefits the Adire affords – it is highly adaptable for use in various forms, for various purposes – decorative or otherwise .
If you are a lover of African art, the Adire dress making process is definitely one to be explored. More importantly, especially if you feel you cannot spare the time to visit a place where these unique creations are made, look out for the many shops where beautiful Adire cloths are put up for sale. Be sure to get informed opinion about how to purchase the types that are durable, and will not fade when washed, at reasonable prices.
It would interest you to know that quite a number of good hotels in Lagos, and other western states often have gift shops with sections dedicated to the sale of artworks – including Adire. Note however that these shops can be a bit pricey, and that you can get much better bargains buying directly from the less pretty stalls of the local people or residents, some of who actually make it themselves. It is well known that the best places to buy well done Adire dresses include Abeokuta in Ogun State, and Osogbo in Osun State – where Nike Davies Okundaye runs one of a number of her galleries in the country.
So, don't forget, when you visit Nigeria, to make out time to explore the world of Adire cloth making, picking up a few souvenirs to take back home with you. If the news we have heard from other visitors to Nigeria is anything to go by, you and those you share your artistic gifts with, will be raving about and showing them off with pride!