Kofar Mata Dye Pits: Diary of a Dying Business

The Kofar Matar Dye Pits are a very historical place for the people of Kano. Established in 1498, the Kofar Matar pits situated in the city centre, goes as way back as 500yrs plus. It has been constantly in use ever since, and a lot of tourists come from all over the world to see it. Interestingly, they still use the same method they did use in those days.

Kofar Mata dye pits are located very close to the old Kofar Mata historical gate and walls, also known as Ganuwa. According to a school of thought, the dye pits existed long before the building of the Kofar Mata gate and walls. The Kofar Mata dye pits are also located east of the Kano City central mosque.

The famous Kofar Mata dye pits have surpassed history as even the greatest of world leaders have confirmed knowledge of it in books of history and great museums across the globe.

However, it is now faced with time changing events and leadership. It was originally an open place with no fence or beautification, and nothing was being done to modernize it.

 

The Kano indigo-vegetable dyeing pits are one of the most fascinating aspects of the old city. Various designs are folded into the material before dyeing and the fabric is often beaten to achieve the shiny, decent appearance. The techniques employed to obtain this look are unmatched around the world. And, although the methods they use are ancient, these lush works of art on fabric have remained extremely popular and have continued to be in great demand.

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There were dyeing pits in Zaria as well as in Kano those days when they were all still at use. Today, only the famous Kofar Mata pits of Kano have survived – they have also become a much liked tourist attraction. Tourists are delighted to know that the pits they are looking at were actually founded in 1498 and the dying process has not changed in centuries.

The Tuaregs have always been good customers of the Zango fabrics. They are also known as the “Blue Men of the Desert” due to the fact that for them, the indigo fabric is left natural after the dye and not fixed with salt and vinegar so that when it is washed, it dyes their faces and hands blue. Quite beautiful, you’ll say.

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On just a single visit, one may not easily appreciate the efforts that are being put in to produce the final work on a fabric from the pits. It is an amazing trip to take to the famous Kano dyeing pit where clothes that originally came in plain white colours are dyed and transformed into patches of colours, patterns and designs. At the entrance of the Kofar Mata Dyeing Pits, hordes of activities are in full swing.

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Girls and women also hawk their goods which include some gourds of fresh nono (fresh cow milk) sitting pretty on their heads, others also hawk kola nuts, groundnuts, and other items. The Kano dyeing pit, which was until recent years, open and unguarded is completely cordoned off from public view. Unless you walk into the place, it is not possible to see the ancient structure where young men and women sweat it out in the scorching sun dyeing cloths.

However, at the other end of the dye pits site, there were a number of people practicing what they called Bugu; that is hammering the dyed and dried fabrics with wood. According to a young Baballe, the practice of Bugu is as old as dying itself and always came second to dying. In fact, it was an old way of pressing clothes into shape, he added, while describing the business as lucrative, considering that it goes with modern time where people brought their clothes for bugu in the case of power outage.

It was observed with utmost dismay how the long-age dying industry became a shadow of itself, where out of the almost 100 dye pits only one has been functioning.

Enquiries at the Kano State Tourism Board to ascertain the mystery surrounding the total collapsed of the trade of traditional dying revealed that insurgency, modern dying and negligence on the part of government were the causes of the death of the trade.

In our encounter with one of the tourism board staff, he expressed concern that the board had not been doing enough to assist the business than doing all what it could to keep the place as the only tourists attraction site.

He also emphasised the significance of modern dying as all-encompassing and can dye various colours than traditional dying that produced only lagoon blue colour.

Kofar Mata dye pits site is now under the control and administration of the Kano State Tourism Board, and still exists and continues to receive tourists and business patrons, only marred by the insurgency in the country today.

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