Empowering Women through Indigo Dye Collectives

One day, as Cece was driving up to Santa Fe, she tuned in KUNM the local Public Radio station. As she listened, she was fascinated by an interview she was listening to. The woman interviewed was Mary Lance, a documentary film director. The Topic? Indigo.

Cece has a long history of “indigo lust” in her life starting from when she was a teenager. As a textile artist, she was often thrilled when she saw the vibrant blue shades that natural dyers got from the indigo plants. She remembers as a teenager, working with an indigo dyer to learn how to make the fermented dye bath that turned the fabric first greenish yellow, then when exposed to air, that luscious blue that has been coveted around the world.  The fabric mystically turns a deep vibrant blue!

So, as she listened to the interview, she discovered that Mary Lance owned a company called New Deal Films and that she had made several full length documentaries of interest, including one on the great muralist Diego Rivera. She has spent the last 5 years working on the film, Blue Alchemy, and had traveled around the world interviewing indigo dye artists from India, to Nigeria, to Mexico, Japan and Bangladesh.

Cece pulled over and took a few notes so that when she returned home, she could order the DVD on indigo. In a few days, the DVD arrived. As Cece watched the film, she was amazed at the various ways the the indigo dye artist “distilled ” the indigo and created the dye pots. It seemed that each culture had developed their own methods to create the dye.

In India, for example, they put the leaves in huge outdoor vats and had a way of sifting out the leaves after they sat under water for several days. The water ran into other vats that were aerated by several people who were actually in  small swimming pools of indigo.  They were up to  their  chests using their legs to aerate  what would soon be dye. This liquid was distilled even more until it got thicker and thicker and soon was taken and put into smaller troughs and left in the sun. Then the mud like dye was spooned out and spread about 6 inches thick on slabs to fully dry in the sun. Once it was almost dry, it was meticulously cut into squares of dye and then sold world wide in these “bricks” of dye.

Indigo is the blue of blue jeans and there is a very interesting segment in the film about Levis and how they were designed and dyed. Also they show archived jeans from the collection of Levi Straus. They show the very first pair of jeans that were ever made.

This is fascinating film that shows how indigo is made across  various cultures and it also shows how the culture of indigo is being revived in small artist collectives that put women to work and give them an income. This is a film worth seeing. It will premiere in Santa Fe as the Lensic Performing Arts Center on July 6, 2011  at 7pm or you can order the DVD through New Deal Films.

“Bye for Now” from The Two Whos



Cece-one of The Two Whos http://www.thetwowhos.com


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