Indigo Dye Vats
The exact moment that the indigo fermentation was complete was difficult to determine. The next step in the process was to drain off the excess liquid leaving behind the indigo sediment.
Many traditions and superstitions surrounded this part of the indigo production. In Japan offerings of rice and plum wine were made to insure a good indigo color. At the Magnolia Mound Plantation in Louisiana the agent in charge of determining the exact time the indigo was ready was said to have used a silver cup. The cup was dipped into the indigo vat and examined for the right color. If the liquid was too green it wasn't ready. A deep blue color was the desired result. A well trained slave who could determine the right blue color was so prized for their skill that they were sometimes able earn their freedom. In Egypt the failure of a vat was blamed on women. Menstruating women were not allowed to walk by the dye vats. In China women with flowers in their hair were kept away. Indonesian women were forbidden the use of strong language when harvesting indigo to protect the soul of the plant. When planting indigo in the West Indies an odd number of seeds were planted in each hole. Essentially the success of having a good indigo harvest and good dye vats was an uncertain business.
|Ivory Coast men wearing Adire indigo clothes. From Adire African Textiles|