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indigo

indigo a deep blue pigment or dyestuff extracted from the leaves of various species from the Indigofera plant genus. Indigo, one of the world’s oldest and most valued dyes, was believed to have mystical properties. Use of the plant’s blue dye stretched across many ancient civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Britain, Mesoamerica, Peru, Iran, and Africa. The most influential and oldest center of indigo dyeing is India, as its name suggests. Indigo challenges and captivates like no other natural dye. In its natural state, indigo is insoluble in water and therefore unable to fix to fibers. The blue dyestuff must undergo chemical reduction to reach a water-soluble, colorless state known as “indigo white.” Only after oxidation, either upon exposure to air or water, will indigo turn from colorless to blue. Repeated dips in a dye bath yield a spectrum of blue shades. Perhaps a hint to its obscured behavior, blue dyestuff was not seen on fabric until long after red, ochre, pink, and purple. Today, indigo remains one of the last natural dyes to be used in places where the industry has entirely converted to synthetics. Over the years, dosa has used traditional natural indigo fabrics of Oaxaca, India, Yoruba, the Tuareg, and the Miao. Currently, our natural indigo fabrics are dyed by artisans in India and by Yoruban textile artist Gasali Onireke Adeyemo. (1993) See also Gasali Onireke Adeyemo; Tuareg