15. Indigenous Threads at Colonel Charles Young Triangle

Indigenous Threads by Oluwaseyi (Shayee) Awoyomi.
Indigenous Threads by Oluwaseyi (Shayee) Awoyomi. Courtesy of Harlem Needle Arts.

On display in Manhattan’s Colonel Charles Young Triangle Park is Iya Alaro by Oluwaseyi (Shayee) Awoyomi, a fifth-generation textile dryer from the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Presented by Harlem Needle Arts, the installation is part of Indigenous Threads, a public art series representing the origins of traditional African textile. It tells the story of Iya Alaro — known as the “Mother of Dyes.”

Tasked with great responsibility, Iya Alaro oversees the harvesting of the indigo plant, known as Adire. In Yoruba this translates as (adi) “to tie” and (re) “to dye.” Alaro is tasked with preparing the dye baths, creating the composition of solvents, and organizing the community of women collecting the plant. After the Adire has been prepared for the market, the Iyaloja (“Mother of the Market”) is voted for by the fellow market women, nominated by the king, or politically chosen. To capture this story, the installation features sketches of Iya Alaro and women dressed in indigo harvesting the plant. Iya Alaro will remain up until December 15, 2022.