Sierra Leone Gara Cloth

Tie-dyed gara made from brillion (damask) cloth tied in the cow yaie (cow’s eye) pattern and immersed in indigo gara dye

Gara is the generic name given in Sierra Leone to fabrics produced by the techniques of wax-resist block-stamping and tie-dyeing. We love gara cloth. Celeste purchased many lappas to sew, then decided they were too pretty to cut up. Do this a hundred times and you’ll have a big stack of gara to donate to textile museums! Here’s a gallery of our random gara acquisitions.

Tools and Techniques of Gara Production

A lappa length of cotton damask fabric known locally as brillion has been stitched in a fishbone pattern and is ready to be immersed in dye
A carved wooden block which will be dipped in melted candle wax and stamped onto fabric to form a resist before dying

A wooden club, in Krio a “bita tik,” that will be used to beat and give a sheen to dyed fabric

Senesie Tarawalley, of the Mandingo tribe, opens a lappa colored with native dye made from kola nuts, and wears a shirt made of fabric he dyed with imported synthetic dyes. Senesie’s gara was popular among Peace Corps Volunteers. In Bo, Sierra Leone.
Esther Turay stamps melted candle wax onto cotton fabric to form a resist pattern before she immerses the fabric in a vat of dye. In Shenge, Sierra Leone.
Two young women in our neighborhood beat fabric which has been tied, dyed, rinsed, and dried. They do this to give the fabric a sheen before it is offered for sale. In Bo, Sierra Leone.

A BBC video that explains, in Krio, the beaucoup-beaucoup challenges faced by gara makers today:

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