Les Arbres à Bleu

2012-04-07 15.37.27

This was another exhibit I particularly liked at the Cotton – Golden Threads exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery.

The work of Aboubakar Fofana, it was a forest created from rolls of cotton cloth all dyed with indigo in different patterns and standing on a “beach” of sand. Scattered on the beach were loofahs, again dyed with indigo.

There are some details about the work and the artist on the exhibition blog :

Aboubakar Fofana is a calligrapher, artist and textile designer. Born in Bamako, Mali, he lived in France for over thirty years but is now based back in Bamako.

Using organic fibres and natural dyes, he is committed to preserving and revitalizing Mali’s nearly lost tradition of natural indigo and vegetable dyeing. Profoundly concerned with maintaining Mali’s cultural heritage, in acquiring his skills he sought out the country’s remaining textile masters.

There’s an interview with the artist on Soundcloud

I was particularly interested in the use of indigo in this work as I’ve recently finished reading Colour by Victoria Findlay. The book, which I didn’t find completely satisfying, contains chapters on all the colours of the rainbow, as defined by Isaac Newton, which included indigo.

Indigo is a vegetable dye that originated in India and has been used for dying cloth for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It’s the colour of blue jeans. This is it’s chemical structure:

This is the chemical structure of indigo.

This is the Indigo plant from which the dyestuff is derived

File:Indigofera tinctoria1.jpg

Image source Wikipedia

The book is largely a series of mini travelogues where the author sets off on one or more journeys connected with each colour. In the case of indigo she travelled to India trying to find the “last indigo plant”. She found that the plant was no longer cultivated in it’s country of origin. Much  of the indigo used today is manufactured artificially.