Patterned Modernity: The Role of Women in the Production of Textiles and Contemporary Art in Nigeria

  • Erin M. Rice


Through the modern history of the indigo-dyed textile adire, produced by the Yoruba in southwest Nigeria, this essay examines the relationship between the production of the textile, the gendered divisions of its production, the development of modernity, and the appropriation of textiles by artists working in Nigeria since the time of independence. The essay presents the argument that a close look at the role adire played in pre-independence decades will reveal that its women dyers were actively involved not only politically and socially in colonial resistance, but also as the producers of visual culture: they expressed themselves aesthetically through the textile pattern. Finally, the textile’s intimate connection to the construction and preservation of memory in Nigerian society is considered as a motive for the appropriation of its pattern language by several of Nigeria’s prominent modern and contemporary artists.