Traditional earth colours and vegetable dyes in Kenya
"Traditional Earth Colours and Vegetable Dyes in Kenya" is a study conducted in two areas referred to in this thesis as 'sub-research areas,' that is: the Lake Basin and the Coastal Region of Kenya. The hypothesis on which choice of the subresearch areas is based is articulated in terms of the diversity of physical and vegetational milieu characterizing the areas under study. The chapter organization is initially introductory and deals primarily with general professional design pre-requisites and ushers in the historical background to production of dye from natural sources as experienced abroad. This introductory aspect is considered a requisite springboard from which the Kenyan experience has been appreciated. / The study objectives, scope and assumptions including the justification of the study areas have been clearly outlined. The historical account of the Kenyan dyeing techniques has been elucidated in terms of Lorna Hindmarsh's experiments including experiences of local women's organizations. J * \ The model for methodology is c^ear and simple. It entails Reconnaissance Survey of the sub-research (XV) areas, collection of materials and identification of the study specimens collected. The collection and identification of the specimens involve multidisciplinary needs. In this connection, the Department of Botany has been useful in helping with the botanical identification and listing of flora specimens, the Department of Geology with the identification of soil specimens and the Department of Chemistry with the screening of the specimens including the laboratory tests with dye-producing parts of plants. Two textile materials, wool and cotton and their physical characteristics have been studied in detail and wool specifically used at this stage of research for dyeing experiments considering its easier administration and its instant receptivity of dye. Mordanting processes and mordants and their value in dyeing techniques are included as essential pre-requisisites to application tests on textile material. Experiments and discussion of results have been done and conclusions upon which recommendations have been drawn are recorded to seal this first phase of the research. Drawings and plates have been done in outline and colour respectively. £ painstaking attempt has been / ‘ \ made to record as nearly similar as possible the outline structure of the plant specimens as wall as the local colour of the hues of dyes absorbed by wool. (xvi) The appreciation of this study in terms of difficulties encountered, shortcomings, potentialities and possibilities has been presented in the form of conclusions and recommendations. Conclusions drawn from these findings confirm the potential, in Kenya, of dyes and earth colours from local plant and earth sources respectively. The research has revealed the value of various Kenyan plants species in the production of natural vegetable dyes which give a wide array of beautiful colours. It has also underscored the threat of extinction of certain rare plant dye sources vastly imminent with the indiscriminate clearing of large tracts of natural vegetation cover in the quest either for extended human habitation or charcoal burning.. Another threat equally manifest is that of the wisdom, knowledge and traditional lore of some of the oldest Kenyans dis- • / / appearing without trace in the absence of sustained documentation efforts. It has been recommended in view of the foregoing facts that all plants with potential dye-pigments should not be left untapped and that the rare dye-producing plants are overdue to be declared endangered species. It has also been noted, in the general interest of environmental protection, that, leaves rather than bark I * \ * \ \ or roots of dye-producing plants should' be reaped inorde to avoid affecting plant life. Research on the (xvii) possibility that plants that have been used for medicinal, paper-making, fuel, ornamental, cash and food purposes can be screened for dye-stuffs has been strongly suggested. The dual advantage would thus exist in the simultaneous exploitation of the plants' consumer potential. The farmers' enemies, in the form of useless weeds like Bidens pilosa 'Black jack' and Tagetes minuta 'Mexican marigold' have been found to be good dye-producers and could be utilized more profitably than has hitherto been the practice. The foregoing conclusions and recommendations point towards the second phase of the research which proposes the urgent need for further research based on current findings. It is my strong view, therefore, that this next phase, which is certainly beyond the scope of this thesis, takes over and develops a statistical critique and data base on which a locally I / established scientific and technological approach could be a possible solution to the strain on the foreign exchange earnings through continued importation of dye-stuffs into Kenya.