Batik, Nigerian Style

So our packaged tour to Osogbo under the auspices of Nike Davies Okundaye, Nigeria’s most famous fabric artist, had to include a visit to one of her art centers to learn more about the resist dye techniques of making Nigerian batik. I was particularly interested in adire, and was getting confused after buying so many batik fabrics only to be told that it was batik, not adire.

My colleague, who is Yoruba and hails from Abeokuta, said “adire” simply means “tie and dye,” in his language. Traditionally the fabric is indigo colored and worn as wrapper by Yoruba women. These days it is sometimes called kampala, and they come in many colors. Nike is credited for revitalizing interest in what seemed to be a dying industry, especially when she established art centers in various parts of Nigeria, offering workshops and free lessons to train young men and women in becoming artists.

We learned that they use the term adire eleko to refer to the Yoruba technique of using cassava starch instead of wax (batik technique). They also use natural vegetable dye and produce indigo from cocoa pods. They have a tree right in their backyard and they demonstrated by grabbing some leaves and crushing these.

The difference does not end here. They also use chicken feathers to create intricate Yoruba patterns, while the batik technique involved the use of foam dipped in melted wax. Nike’s adire fabrics are not cheap, but neither are the batik fabrics sold in her art galleries.

Adire Eleko Technique with Cassava Starch and Chicken Feathers

Batik Technique with Melted Wax and Foam

Whether you purchase adire or batik, the designs are complicated when compared to the common variety of batik tablecloth sold to tourists and expats. Her fabrics are also meant to be worn, so the material is different. Otherwise, it is really hard to tell the difference …

Nike’s batik fabrics with modern and traditional patterns


Batik fabrics by other artists

Majority of batik artists are based in Ibadan, but Abeokuta and Osogbo are also major batik centers.


2 thoughts on “Batik, Nigerian Style

  1. Dear Madame
    I’m interesting to learn the Adire Eleko cloth method.
    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/natural dyes and how to seal the color/fixation color (so that the color does not fade),
    4. and finally, how to remove the cassava from the finished work.
    And How to make batik wax in Nigeria.
    I am interested in the way of making batik wax in Nigeria. they do not use tjanting, but using foam that has a pointed tip. batik craftsmen in nigeria using foam and dipped in melted wax. I want to know, what kind of foam used, if the foam to wash the dish-washers is impossible because it is too soft, is it possible types of foam rather harsh? and how it made the melted wax, if the wax is mixed with water only then heated or added to other materials? so what kind of wax to use? I see a very dilute melted wax and hand of craftsmen no overheating when he dip in? What this might dilute the melted wax has cooled, after the heating process?
    I hope you give me the information and please send to my email :
    Thanks Madame.
    Greet from Indonesia.

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