The Adara Foundation: A Lagos Project That Empowers Low-Income Women

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We want people to be touched by the design,” said Yvonne Fasinro, referring to her second day job that empowers low-income women through handwork at the Adara Foundation, which she founded. Her other role is as a high-level banker and financial guru at Merrill Lynch in Lagos, where she is a Managing Director and Head of the Sub-Saharan Africa division. A new generation is learning – and saving – free-hand batik and the twisting, crunching, and stitching of tie and dye

When Yvonne Fasinro first started to survey what was happening with the dip-and-dye work of Nigeria’s Abeokuta and Oshogbo regions, she reckoned that the ancient techniques had a lifespan of two more generations, at best, and that no-one was trying to create something more commercial and widespread. “We want to mix it up a lot more,” she said, adding that she also wanted to protect the environment.Tie and Dye

The work this dynamic businesswoman is showing in a basic building in Yaba, a young working class area of the Nigerian city, consists of “resist-dyeing”: a method that produces hand-crafted batik in all its rich patterns and colours, as well as dip-dye and tie-dye – related techniques that produce a similar visual effect. The students work with traditional cottons, and are also introduced to imported silk and chiffon – which is often their very first encounter with these delicate materials.

“We try to preserve the actual fabric-making and design, and then we encourage them to push boundaries and push themselves. It’s very inspiring,” Fasinro said.

As they focused on a material world, these women’s work was changing their modest lives through the opportunity to earn money – perhaps for the first time – and the sense of self-worth that the craft skills bring them.

“Work is not just about beautiful fabric,” “These women come here not knowing anything. We give them a work ethic. We teach them standards, teach them how to work with each other, and how to take a broader perspective. Everywhere is peaceful and quiet. It’s a beautiful sound – orderly, in a way, and productive.” Adara Foundation

Like so many ancient traditions of dress, the meaning behind the clothes and their patterns may be fading away compared to the messages the prints conveyed in the past. That knowledge goes back five centuries to the art of dipping and twisting in a dye made from the indigo plant.