East of the Kano City Central Mosque, close to the historical Kofar Mata gates and walls, are the Kofar Mata Marina dye pits. Dug in 1498, the pits, which number over 100, attracted traders and travellers from across the Sahel region and was a centre of Kano’s booming textile industry.
The making of the dye is a centuries-old process. Water is poured into the pits, which are up to six metres deep. Ash is added, to ensure it has a glaze, as is potassium, for colouration. After the further addition of dry twigs, the mixture is left for four weeks, at which point it would have become ready for use.
Designs are folded into the cloth, which is then dipped in for between 30 minutes and six hours, to achieve the desired shade of colour. Every few minutes, the cloth is aired. Depending on the dyer, chemicals are used to create a variety of colours. The fabric is beaten afterwards to attain its famed shiny appearance. When the dye finishes in a pit, the residue is burned to an ashy concoction that could be used as domestic health medicine.
The Kofar Mata Marina Dye Pits, which are falling out of use, are among the last of their kind.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, editor, journalist, and curator. He is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture, art, photography, business, activism, and health. He has vast experience working in literature. He has sat on the judging panels of The Gerald Kraak Prize and of The Morland Writing Scholarship. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria's first queer art collective, and Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. For three years, Nov. 2016 to Apr. 2020, he led the transformation of the literary blog Brittle Paper into a continental powerhouse, ideating and administering The Brittle Paper Awards, the first by an African publication. His work in queer advocacy has been profiled in Literary Hub. In 2019, he won The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians." He completed a collection of short stories in 2016 and his novel in 2020. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.