Colour and patterns

Colour is the most immediately visible stylistic element. The two-colour or polychrome process depends on the number of dye baths which follow the preparation of reserves.  Formerly exclusively natural, dyes today are often synthetic.  The choice of colour is associated with symbolism of the colours and this aspect is equally referred to here.


Some original patterns come from reserve-dyeing processes and are revealed by playing with the colours.

  • indigo


  • parrot green

    parrot green

  • red


  • colour symbolism

    colour symbolism

  • ochre and brown

    ochre and brown

  • multicoloured


  • paint highlights

    paint highlights

  • dotted spiral

    dotted spiral

  • circular pattern

    circular pattern

  • figurative dotted lines

    figurative dotted lines

  • irregular line design

    irregular line design

  • sewing on pleats

    sewing on pleats

  • geometric representation, sowing

    geometric representation, sowing

  • figurative




Loincloth, iro Nigeria, south-west region, Yoruba, 20th century Cotton Donation from Mr and Mrs Corlay 70.2006.18.116

Reserve-dyed cloth by sewing with raffia thread, adire alabere Tying and indigo dyeing are female activities amongst the Yoruba. The term adire widely refers to indigo dyed fabrics, whose sewn reserves make up a subset. These fabrics require meticulous and expert preparation. They are very valued, especially when indigo-vegetable dyes are used. Fabrics and clothing are associated with the Yoruba deities and play an important social role. Indigo blue is an evocation of the sky and water, and the symbol of valued human qualities. This design is made up of numerous, particularly fine patterns and is only rarely produced. 167x148 cm