Africa is known for its cultural and artistic traditions. Any tourist visiting Africa will be charmed by the breath taking prints and colors used in their everyday costumes. The elegant attires and beautiful fabrics are regarded with respect by textile curators of various cultural backgrounds. The pride of African culture and heritage is displayed through their fabrics which have distinct styles, and forms that indicate the ethnic diversity of the country. The main method of decorating cloth in Africa is dyeing. It is a main business in many places in Africa and specialist skills are developed in the process of dyeing clothes.
Cloth dyeing is the main source of income for woman from Labe, West Africa. In some places nearly everyone, including men and children are involved in this process. Cloth production is Africa not only varies from place to place, but is also influenced by societal change. Indigo dyeing is done by woman in Yoruba, and Soninke of West Africa, but among Hausa, this task is undertaken by men. The traditional and non industrial nature of dyeing and the way it is practiced makes it all the more fascinating. African traditional methods of dyeing clothes have now become a part of the contemporary art.
Majority of the weavers use only locally produced dyes, and hence only a limited number of shades are available. Brown, green, yellow, and red are mostly used, and by far, the most important color of African dyes has been indigo. Over the centuries, a vast majority of clothes were being produced by combining the natural white color with indigo blue. Very fine quality of clothes were dyed in dark indigo and then dyed with more indigo paste by specialist people so as to give it a glazed sheen. These are extremely expensive and are worn as face veils by nomads throughout North Africa.
This method is extremely popular in West African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Benin, and Sierra Leone. Various methods are applied to protect some parts of the cloth while other parts are dyed. Tie and dye, sew and dye, batik, and using cassava paste resist are most common methods of resist dyeing. In tie and dye method, small areas of cloth are tied using raffia strings before dyeing. Sew and dye is a method, where designs are sewn on the clothes and the stitches are picked later to reveal a light on the dark pattern. In batik method, melted wax is applied on the fabric to resist the dye. This will be a combination of paraffin wax and bees wax.