Cool Air and Early Nights
In the summer of 1994 my family and I moved to Nigeria where my husband and I took on teaching posts at the German School in Lagos.
What was supposed to last only two years became a nine-year African adventure: climate, environment, culture, languages, food, smells, sounds – all were entirely new experiences.
Apart from teaching art at school, I soon immersed myself into unknown territories: huge and densely populated marketplaces with exotic fruit and vegetables, street food, livestock, open air slaughter places, household goods, clothes and beads became part of my regular expeditions.
Getting to some markets was a bold venture due to derelict road conditions, power cuts or hopeless congested streets.
At the end of the day, coping with the difficult circumstances was worthwhile as I was usually rewarded by the discovery of beautiful vintage textiles.
Indigo dyed textiles had been my main interest. To me, the chemical process of using indigo or woad as a dyeing pigment is fascinating: the change of colour from lime green to eventually dark blue through oxidation seems magic. Apparently, this dyeing technique has been practiced for several thousand years in many parts of the world.
Trips to Kano and Kaduna, cities in the northern part of Nigeria were eye-opening experiences, watching dyers still using traditional stone-lined pits in the ground.
Many West African cloths are made of Aso-Oke strips which are 5-15cm wide handwoven strips. I watched groups of young men in villages near Abekouta weaving such strips on narrow-strip looms.
The fibres used for weaving, predominantly cotton and silk, are either locally sourced or brought from Hausa Land in the northern part of the country and at times imported from Tunisia, Italy and France.