Batik cloth has been important in Africa for nearly two thousand years.
Batik is a method of applying pattern to fabric. A resist-dyeing
technique, batik involves coating fabric with a dye-resistant substance
and submerging the fabric in colored dye. Typically the
A man soaking clothing in indigo dye, which is the most common dye
used to produce batik cloth.
Reproduced by permission of
dye-resistant substance is made of the cassava root or rice flour and the
chemicals alum, a type of salt found in the earth, or copper sulfate, a
naturally occurring mineral. The substance is boiled with water to make a
thick paste. Women paint the paste on the fabric by hand to make flowing
designs or men press the paste into stencils to make accurate repeated
patterns. The patterns and methods for applying designs have been handed
down through families for generations. Once the paste is dry, the fabric
is submerged in dye in large clay pots or pits dug in the earth. When the
dyed fabric is dry, the paste is scraped off to reveal a white or pale
blue design. Indigo is the most common dye used to produce batik cloth.
Indigo is made from a plant that grows in Africa. Most often cotton is
used for the base fabric.
The popularity of batik patterns as an item for trade has encouraged
factories to produce masses of machine-made batik cloths for sale. These
fabrics are made in Europe and in some African countries. However, the
best examples of traditional African batik cloth are made by the Yoruba in
Nigeria. Batik cloth is made into a variety of wrapped clothing, as well
as stitched tunics, robes, and trousers.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
New York: Rizzoli, 1999.
Kennett, Frances, and Caroline MacDonald-Haig.
New York: Facts on File, 1994.