Daboya – spinning and indigo dyeing
I asked to meet a cotton handspinner in Ghana, but this was difficult to find, as the practice has virtually died out with the advent of machine-spun yarns. Finally I found someone who had heard of someone in Daboya (a very small town) who still did it, so off I went in search of the spinner.
And I found her! and, coincidentally, a community of indigo dyers. Riches!
You can read more about my experiences in Ghana in the Ghana section of my travel blog.
To get to Daboya, you have to take a 2.5-hour bus ride, then you have to ford the river.
Fording the river.
Spinning cotton. First she removes the seeds by hand...
...then she plucks a bow through the cotton to fluff it up. (Interestingly enough, this is the same method used by the Akha people in Thailand. See the Akha spinning section of the Thailand travel page for details!)
Next she rolls the fluffed cotton onto a stick, forming a rolag.
Attaching the rolag to the spindle.
Spinning. Notice that she is winding on to the top of the spindle. I asked if she was eventually going to wind it onto the base of the spindle, but was unable to communicate my question well enough to get an answer.
The spindle. The whorl is crudely formed, and is made out of clay/mud to be found near the river. Sometimes they're decorated with white stripes et al.
Some kind of mordant used with the indigo. They import it from Burkina Faso, burn it to ash, and add it to the dyepot.
Indigo dyepot. The ashes, some acid, and indigoferous plants are added, then it is allowed to ferment for several days before using. The pit is usually 6-7 feet deep (!)
A spent indigo pot. A pot can last for 3 days to 3 weeks before it goes sour, depending on the weather (when cool, it can last up to three weeks, but in the heat of the dry season, it might last only two days.
A ball of dried indigoferous herbs. I didn't manage to see a live plant, or I'd have photographed it.
A young man weaving. Looking closely, you can see horizontal white stripes in the cloth he is weaving. These are formed using a tied-resist: a very long skein is laid out, rope wrapped around portions of it, then it is indigo-dyed. The result is a weft that is both blue and white, resulting in regular blue-and-white stripes without needing to change wefts.
Threading the loom and sleying the reed. If you look closely, you can see that the reed is much coarser than the one used by the Ewe people. Also, the strips woven are narrower, perhaps 2.5-3" wide, rather than 4-5" as with the Ewe.
The bus home. (How do you fit 80 people into a minivan...?)
On the way home, they put a cow into the trunk of the van, in addition to all the people. Yes--a COW.