The Bamileke of Cameroon create a remarkable indigo dyed fabric, and it’s likely they adopted the technique from the Yoruba long ago. Made with cotton and natural dyes, the Ndop fabric carries a long history and its symbols are full of mystery. Originally, the Ndop Cloth was worn during funeral ceremonies and traditional rites, its primary symbolic is directly connected to death and afterlife. The light blue color was then associated with the sky, rain and powerful spirits.
The Ndop fabric is generally made of strip woven cotton, sourced locally. The strips of cotton are sewn together by hand into bigger pieces of fabric. As said Ndop cloth is used for clothing and ritual ceremonies. After that, Bamileke women stitch tight patterned patches of raffia grass into the fabric before dipping in the dye pits. After several dye and dry cycles, the grass are cut loose revealing intricate geometric designs and symbols. You will still find bits of raffia stuck in the cloth! Ndop cloth has many traditional functions. Edged with red or carmine baize, it makes up the twirling kilts of male dancers at mourning cry-dies. Substantial and important old cloths are used as backdrops, mainly for ceremonies.
Resist dyeing is a term for a number of traditional methods of dyeing textiles with patterns. Methods are used to “resist” or prevent the dye from reaching all the cloth, thereby creating a pattern.
Ndop cloth is a very rare and special fabric. It is not easy to get the older fabrics because it is rare and also very expensive. Nowadays the strip cloth has been replaced by big cotton blankets but still using the traditional methods of resist dyeing.