Journal of Consumer Sciences

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Natural dyes and dyeing techniques used by craftswomen in the northern Hhohho region of Swaziland

ES Toerien, S Khumalo


A survey of the plants used by craftswomen in the northern Hhohho region of Swaziland to dye craft materials was conducted. Nineteen plants were identified and details concerning the part of the plant used, the time of year it was harvested and the colour obtained were documented. The techniques used during the dyeing process were also recorded.

When an examination of baskets sold at craft markets in Ezulwini could reveal no evidence of the use of natural dyes, an attempt was made to contact the ladies again, but it transpired that the leader of the group had died, and that they discontinued their work with natural dyes. A second group of craft workers was approached. They were shown photographs of the plants used by the first group and recognised eight as dye plants, but were not familiar with the rest of the plants.

Both groups used the direct dyeing method, a technique frequently used in southern Africa. Seven of the plants identified were only listed by one other source as a dye plant, but no colours or other details were documented by these authors.

AJOL African Journals Online