Arrowmont is a special community full of creative people – a family who know that coming together and making art is important. We talk a lot about the Arrowmont Experience – connecting through craft and community. That connection exists beyond physical proximity. It is in shared memories and new ideas. It lives in the friendships we make with each other. It grows when we learn and support one another.
Whether on campus or off, we are connected as members of the Arrowmont family. Over the next few weeks, we are going to share stories from our community of instructors, residents, and students in a new series, Arrowmont Connections.
Gasali Adeyemo is a textile artist, natural dyer, and Arrowmont instructor. He grew up in Ofatedo, Nigeria and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He studied for six years at the Nike Center for Art and Culture and taught there for four years. His artwork has been exhibited in Bayruth, Germany. A participant in the World Craft Summit, the Maiwa Symposium and the World Batik Conference, Adeyemo conducts workshops and presentations about indigo textiles and the Yoruban culture. Gasali will be teaching a workshop again at Arrowmont in 2021.
“Peace, Love, Unity”
These are the themes, based on his Nigerian upbringing, that Gasali expresses through his use of natural dye, Indigo, in his work.
Recently, Gasali participated in Peters Valley School of Craft’s first Virtual Visiting Instructor Night, presenting a short artist talk.
Growing up in Offatedo, the style, pattern and colors in his clothes marked his belonging. “When I came to the United States, I didn’t know you could carry identification,” he said. “How I dress is my identification. Indigo color helps identify what group we belong to in my country, Nigeria.”
Gasali is the 6th generation in his family to use traditional dye to create his clothing. Gasali describes his use of wax, yucca paste resist, and fiber dyes to create intricate garments and textiles. His upbringing in Yoruba influences not only the traditional processes he uses, but also the designs in his work.
“The primary dye I use in my workshops is Indigo. Indigo has been used as a dye in Africa for at least 2000 years.
The Yoruba name for indigo is ‘elu.’ Since the olden days indigo has been used for medicine as well as a dye; it cures an upset stomach. Indigo is also used to ward off viruses; houses are painted with indigo to prevent the sickness from entering. Indigo is an organic substance, it comes from the indigo plant which grows wild in Nigeria. During the beginning of the rainy season the leaves are harvested and then dried. After they have dried they are formed into little balls which are then used to prepare the dye.”
For Gasali, Indigo blue brings people together. “Back in Africa, [indigo] is a symbol [that connects] our community. When I was a kid, there was no public press or television. So we used indigo-dyed clothing to communicate. We pray every day that Indigo will never die, because of the joy and beauty we get from it – from the color.“
Gasali was scheduled to offer craft workshops across the country this summer – teaching Yoruba batik, adire, and tie-dye with Indigo. Instead, due to the pandemic he is staying home in his studio, continuing to do what his mother taught him. He offers new hand-made garments or yardage each day through his Facebook and Instagram pages, @gasali.adeyemo and @yoruba_indigo
For Gasali, there has never been an option except to be an artist. And as a Yoruba artist, he will continue to use indigo to bring joy to his work. Gasali finished his artists talk by stating, “Indigo unites the world.”
Gasali Adeyemo’s website: africancraft.com/artist/gasali
Peters Valley Friday Night Virtual Artists Presentation (Week 1): https://youtu.be/IdHsjNl3uQU