BY Karen Gibbs | August 18, 2011
The old language of indigo
An experienced traveler and textile enthusiast recently said of Aboubakar Fofana, “One look in his eyes tells you he is an old soul.” The same can be said of his methods: old soul means old school.
His indigofera leaves are grown locally and organically, hand harvested and dried in the Malian sun. His fabrics are woven of hand spun organic cotton and linen. Every piece is hand sewn. All of this happens in Fofana’s Bamako workshop which, since his kind of production management feels more like teaching, is really a school for indigo-making. Here, no step can be hurried. The right timing and temperature, the right balance of ingredients: these factors, and more, influence the hue and character of the dye.
A prolonged soaking of the indigofera leaves releases indican, the leaves’ essential ingredient. Fermentation transforms this into indoxyl, sometimes called white indigo. Oxidation completes the magic by joining oxygen and white indigo to form indigo.
Fermentation means bacteria must thrive in the dye vat. Fofana still uses wooden and clay vessels, whose porous walls welcome them. He feeds them honey, grains, and mashed banana to make them, and the dye, strong. In his hands, the indigofera plant produces twelve distinct shades: – from pale blue to subtle green-tinged turquoise to deep blue-black. His colors are different from other indigos: a bit of shadow, of history, grounds each tone.
For more information, visit www.aboubakar-fofana.com, which is written in French.
To purchase Fofana’s products, contact LLHome via firstname.lastname@example.org.