Unique opportunity at School of Folk Arts

Published 5:35 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2021

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By Paul D. Sullivan

Did you know that indigo was grown in Natchez as a cash crop a hundred years before cotton became king?

Natchez once had a thriving indigo industry up and down the river bank. Ships sailed from Natchez to England carrying indigo dye cakes processed in Natchez from locally grown indigo.

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Natchez indigo made its way into the blue British Navy uniforms of the early 1800s.

Now you can learn traditional Nigerian indigo dyeing techniques at Mississippi School of Folk Arts in Natchez. Gasali Adeyemo will be teaching a four-day workshop from Saturday, May 29, through June 1.

Gasali grew up in a Nigerian village, where he learned the ancient art of indigo. Gasali has taught his indigo course all over the world, and we are lucky to have him come to Natchez.

Indigo dyeing is a fascinating process, a combination of science and art.

Dyed fabric emerges from the dye vat a lemon-lime yellow color, which changes to indigo blue as the fabric is exposed to air. The color changes takes only a few minutes, and you can watch your blue color emerge from the yellow!

Nearly every culture in the world has an indigo dyeing tradition. Gasali will teach us how to use natural casava paste and chicken feathers to create traditional designs, how to create the natural indigo vat, and other secrets of the mystical process of indigo dyeing.

Tuition includes all materials, as well as fabric and clothing to dye during the class.

There are still spaces for the workshop, which is limited to 10 people.  The cost is $375.

Also, please join us for a “meet the artist” event Friday evening, May 28, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the folk school. Refreshments will be served and Gasali’s work will be on display.

Finally, the School is hosting a free tie-dye workshop for kids from fifth grade and up on June 2 and 3, 2021. There are two time slots each day, one at 9 a.m. and one at 3:30 p.m., and the classes last one and one-half hours.

We can host up to 90 children, spread out over the four sessions, and hope to fill every spot. Please give your child a chance to experience indigo dyeing. Children will learn traditional tie dye techniques and will design and dye a handkerchief provided by the school.

Humans have dyed with indigo for thousands of years all across the globe. Now is the time for your kids to join the tradition. They won’t forget the magic of indigo, and will come home with an indigo dyed handkerchief that they dyed with their owns hands.

The School is located at 209 E. Franklin St., Natchez. Please call 601-493-4242, or go online at msfolkart.org/product-page/children-s-introduction-to-indigo-tie-dye to register. Email is FolkSchool@MSFolkArt.org.

Mississippi School of Folk Arts is teaching a number of kids’ classes and adult classes this summer. Come see what we are up to and learn along with us!

Paul D. Sullivan is a co-founder and director of the Mississippi School of Folk Arts.