The Halsey House & Garden in Southampton on Long Island is hosting “IYA ALARO,” an outdoor exhibit by multidisciplinary artist Oluwaseyi (Shayee) Awoyomi who is also a fifth-generation textile dryer from the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The exhibition is on display through September 15th.
The fifty-foot-long mural’s creation was curated by Harlem Needle Arts, Inc. In 2022 the outdoor artwork was displayed for a year at Colonel Young Triangle in Harlem. It depicts Iya Alaro, the mother of dyers, who oversees the indigo harvest and production of indigo-dyed cloth, known as “Aidre” among the Yoruba People of Nigeria.
Indigo pigment was used in the ancient world beginning at least 3,000 years ago. It probably developed in India and was widely used for medicinal, cosmetic, and decorating purposes by the Egyptian and Mayan Civilizations. The dye was an important luxury item during America’s Colonial Era used in fabrics and wall papers, it was so valuable that Indigo dye was sometimes used as currency.
The role of indigo dyed fabric production and trade was developed hundreds of years ago by industrious women of Yorubaland in West Africa. Its importance as a sacred color used in dye-resist fabrics, with geometric designs, continues with the Yoruba People and in markets around the world.
A collaboration was sparked in 2022 between Michelle Bishop, director of Harlem Needle Arts, and Tom Edmonds, Southampton History Museum, to share an exhibit that ties the plant dye indigo with West African culture, women’s history, slavery and America’s colonial past.
The Halsey House & Garden is located at 249 South Main Street, in Southampton, and is managed by the Southampton History Museum. For more information visit the Southampton History Museum website.
Photo: Halsey Hous with IYA ALARO photo by Tom Edmonds.