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The Microscopic World

Metal

Stencil Zoomify

Metal objects aid in the production of textiles in many different ways. The durability of metal lends itself to the production of tools such as scissors, rotary cutters, and needles or pins of all shapes and sizes. These tools often last much longer than the textiles they were instrumental in creating.

About the Object

Object name: Stencil
Place made: Nigeria
People: Yoruba
Date made: c. 1970
Dimensions: 64 x 39 cm
Materials & Techniques: Zinc sheet metal with punched and cut out icons
Credit line: Gift of Susan E. Barkley
ID: T87.0600

This stencil, made from a sheet of zinc, is used to produce adire cloth in Nigeria. A thick paste of yam or cassava flour is pushed through the holes in the stencil onto cotton sheeting, which is immersed in a vat of indigo dye to turn it blue.

Alternative Views

Oblique

Oblique

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Second Look

Macro

Macro

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Touchpoint View

Animation

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Audio Clip

Adire Cloth

Listen to Susan Barkley talk about Nigerian adire cloth.

Credit: Audio Produced by TMC

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Transcript

We’re looking here at adire eleko. Particularly, the stencils were great political advertisements. For instance, in the 1970s, they had a chief named Yakubu Gowon and while he was on a tour in England he was deposed. And so all of a sudden all the gown cloths ceased to exist. They were not in the market anymore. All his stencils were suddenly, um, off all the shelves. By the time we left, the chiefs had decided that Yakubu wasn’t such a bad ruler after all and before we left Nigeria, I suddenly saw, in the big market, the Yakubu Gowon stencil cloth being sold again. And I read 6 months later in the Ottawa paper that Gowon had been reinstated in the Nigerian government and I thought, “That’s fine”. But I knew it six months ago because I read it on the cloth in the market. So, it was a great, um…teller of history.

Image

Imagery of the Stencil

The positioning of the Yoruba man and woman on this adire stencil echoes a famous pattern called oloba, meaning the cloth with a king on it. Oloba was inspired by the memorabilia produced to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary in 1935. The couple wears African-style clothing and the woman has a cross around her neck, since some Yoruba people were Christian. The word EGBA refers to a subgroup of the Yoruba, and GBE is a cluster of regional languages. Just as the metal linings of tea chests were recycled to make adire stencils, this king image was re-contextualized to represent any lordly person and his consort.

Magic lantern slide of George V and Queen Mary, c. 1935

Imagery of the Stencil

Image title: Magic lantern slide of George V and Queen Mary, c. 1935
Credit: Image Courtesy of the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture, University of Exeter

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Image

Tin-Lined Tea Chests

The Yoruba people of southwest Nigeria have a long history as skilled textile artisans. In the early 20th century, the Yoruba developed an ingenious way to reuse sheet metals, which had arrived in Nigeria from the Far East in the tin or lead linings of tea chests. Although stitched- and tied-resist adire cloth was traditionally produced by women, it was the men who cut the stencils from the metal sheets and used it to print resist designs. The resulting indigo cloth, dyed with cassava paste, was called adire eleko; it featured more freely drawn designs than the stitched-resist adire alabere and tied-resist adire oniko.

Tin-Lined Tea Chests, Darjeeling

Tin-Lined Tea Chests

Image title: Tin-Lined Tea Chests, Darjeeling
Credit: Image Courtesy of Paul Williams

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Collection Connections

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ID*: T00.42.13

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ID*: T87.0597

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