Inside the dying 522-year-old dye pit of Kofar Mata

One of the few remaining operators of the dye centre

The historic Kano dyeing pits have been serving as a call point to various national and international guests who visited Kano state.

The pits have also served as a national as well as international monuments cherished by the people of the state over hundreds of years.

Established in the year1498 by Malam Muhammadu Dabosa, ever since the dyeing business continues to exist generation after generation to this point in time.

The centre which is situated at Kofar Mata in the ancient part of Kano city has been a tourist point of attraction as it has hosted various international bureaucrats and technocrats over the years.

Interestingly, a lot of tourists come from all over the world to have a look on how the operators of the centre managed to still use the same method they inherited to produce such textile materials with classical quality.

It was also gathered that the Kano Kofar Mata dyeing centre has been producing dyed textile materials for export to African countries and some European countries thereby serving as a strong source of income to the operators of the dyed textile materials business.

A recent visit to the pits situated at the ancient Kofar Mata area revealed fascinating dyeing pits with few people working as dyers in the few functional pits as many pits are seeing untended to.

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Indeed, the dyeing centre is presently living in the shadow of its former self as the once ever-busy dyeing centre is now a low keyed activity site.

Though, the centre depicts all forms of modernity in terms of practical aspect as it attempts to preserve the inherited traditions of the profession, the techniques employed by the dyers to produce fabrics with expertise touch are fascinating and remained popular among the Hausa speaking people around the world.

A businessman dealing in traditional fabric and horses attires at the famous Kurmi Market Malam Bello Sanusi stated that records have shown that, fabrics made by the Kofar Mata dyers have been the best fabric that have made many people rich over the years.

According to him, their ancestors told them that the Kofar Mata finished fabric was always in high demand especially during festival periods.

“The Kofar Mata finished fabrics have been the best among other fabrics we sell here in those days and we usually ran out of stock of it due to its high demand by people from Mali, Togo, Niger, Senegal and some countries in Asia and Europe,” he said.

It was however revealed that the dyeing business operated by the dyers who have inherited the craft in the ancient commercial city have continued to suffer neglect from successive governments as those in the business complain of lack of support and encouragement from the authorities concerned as well as the coming of the Chinese into the business.

It was also revealed that the centre’s site has enjoyed a series of renovations while operators suffered neglect.

Malam Haruna Baffa is the Secretary of Kofar Mata Marina and he is one of the living generations of the founder of the dye centre.

According to him, over the years, the profession has gone through various transitions in terms of the profession and surviving competition in the fabrics market.

The Secretary said that, it was a miracle and patriotic act on the part of the operators that kept the business afloat to this level.

He revealed that, out of the 144 pits used as dye pits in the centre only 10 are presently functional and 134 pits are there untendered to.

He further stated that many people have left the business they inherited from their parents and sought other avenues to earn a living.

“It will interest you to know that we are here because this is what we have inherited from our forefathers and it is our pride as dyers. It was a miracle that we are still operating even though the world has recognized us as producers of monumental fabrics that is accepted worldwide. This centre is presently under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),” he revealed.

He added that the intrusion of the Chinese into the dye business hundreds of thousands of able youths involved in the dyeing business across the state were rendered jobless as the Chinese were allowed to import into Nigeria low and cheap quality finished fabrics that are usually made from plastic fabrics instead of cotton.

The Secretary also revealed that the Kofar Mata Dye centre has been represented in various international exhibitions to showcase its products adding that the centre has secured some forms of partnership with foreign nations but due to poor capital, the centre couldn’t explore the partnership fully.

“We believe it is never too late, the world still appreciates our products so much. There is a lot to gain in expanding and promoting this business. We have personally attended exhibitions in various countries and we have seen how the world has wholeheartedly accepted and taken our products. This has proven to us that, with private and public sector intervention into the centre’s activities a huge income to all parties involved will be recorded. But sadly, no one seems to be looking to that angle. We will continue to appeal to concerned authorities to wade in and save this historically profitable business,” said the secretary.

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