The significance of the color blue for Africans



Indigo in Africa

“Indigo grows wild in almost every part of the African Coast … Besides the Indigo, there is another plant which the natives use as a blue dye, which appears to impart a more indelible color, and which, should it stand the test of experiment, might also be cultivated.”

–British Report of the Committee of the African Institution: West African Produce, 25 March 1808
Africans have used indigo for centuries as symbol of wealth and fertility. Indigo-dyed cotton cloth excavated from caves in Mali date to the 11th century and many of the designs are still used by modern West Africans. The Tauregs, “blue men” of the Sahara, are famous for their indigo robes, turbans, and veils that rub blue pigment into their skin. Yoruba dyers of Nigeria produce indigo cloth called adire alesso using both tie-and-dye and resist dye techniques, while honoring Iya Mapo, as the patron god of their exacting craft. Dyers of the Kanuri (Cameroon and Nigeria) and Fulani (modern Niger and Burkina-Faso) ethnic groups popularized indigo near Lake Chad and through portions of West Africa.

Most African dyers are women including among the Yoruba, the Malike and Dogan of Mali, and the Soninke of Senegal. Dyeing is also performed by men among the Mossi (Burkina-Faso) and the Hausa, who have produced indigo-dyed textiles in the ancient city of Kano (Northern Nigeria) since the 15th century.

— Content from Slaves in America

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