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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Innovation and Conflict: Cloth Dyers and the Interwar Depression in Abeokuta, Nigeria
Author:Byfield, Judith A.
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:Nigeria
economic recession
History and Exploration
Economics and Trade
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Women's Issues
Labor and Employment
Law, Legal Issues, and Human Rights
Sex Roles
Abstract:The interwar depression was a critical junction for women engaged in the production of tie-dyed indigo cloth ('adire') in the Yoruba town of Abeokuta (Nigeria). Abeokuta had become one of the premier dyeing centres in Yorubaland, but by the end of the 1920s the industry declined significantly. This article examines the impact of the depression on the dyeing industry, dyers' attempts to mitigate the crisis, and the ways in which the industry as well as class and gender relations were transformed. Dyers' ability to navigate the economic crisis was influenced, and sometimes limited, by the actions of other producers and traders as well as by the State as they tried to protect their interests. The decline forced dyers to explore a range of economic and political options and to introduce new technologies (caustic sodas, synthetic dyes) into the production process. This exacerbated old tensions and created new ones while allowing dyers to increase production and cut costs. Consumer complaints about the quality of Abeokuta's 'adire' ultimately propelled the 'alake' (local government head) to ban the use of caustic soda and synthetic dyes. This engendered a sharp conflict between the dyers and the 'alake', which resulted in a Commission of Inquiry into the industry in 1936. 'Adire' production continued but the industry was reduced to a shadow of its former existence. Notes, ref., sum.