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Memory of Indigo

Site-specific performance and installation 

Memory of Indigo I (2006) - Hyderabad, India Symposium of Natural Dyes

Memory of Indigo II - Alep, Syrie (2010)

For more than twenty five years now, I have been using the natural indigo pigment in my art work as a dominant color. It was by pure intuition. An art critic who wanted to write an article about my work asked me “why the blue?” I answered “not the blue, but the Indigo”. My answers lead me to know more about Indigo. First I remembered that I grew up in the house of my uncle where his portrait was painted with indigo shades only. Later, I read the following sentence in a book that dates back to 1849 “The Recovery of Jerusalem” by the traveler Warren: “On a sunny day, we can see in the streets of Jerusalem hundreds of meters of fabrics dyed with indigo.” Another book published by the British Museum in 1989 produced this sentence to me: “Indigo is the first color of Palestine”. Natural indigo was massively used to dye the Palestinian costumes.  Associated with lime, indigo was also widely used to paint the interior and the exterior of houses. Finally, my research led me to find a lot of references from Arab and foreigner travelers who mentioned the plantation of indigo in the Jordan valley. Indigo, however, is not related to Palestine only. I learned that many other countries produce and share the admiration for this color like India, Egypt, Mexico, Mali, China, Japan...  

I wanted to celebrate the color in an artistic performance.

In 2006 « Memory of Indigo I » was celebrated in Hyderabad in India during the “Symposium of Natural Dyes”. The dance was inspired by indigo dyers and the Indian culture of dance. The musicians were monks living in an ashram. They played in public for the first time.

In 2010 « Memory of Indigo II » took place in the great citadel of Aleppo which was the most important city in the Middle East for indigo dyeing. The dance was inspired by local dance, using silk fabrics that were still largely found in the city’s crafts. The music was composed by musicians from Aleppo who reflect the rich traditions of the city.

As dusk falls around the Mediterranean, the sky becomes a vibrant indigo color, flushing its hues throughout the universe. The sea soaks up the indigo and entrusts it to a mollusk (Murex) which absorbs it into its very texture. The earth too soaks up the indigo, bestowing it to many species of the indigo plant, which then takes it into its leaf-sap. The plant and mollusk have revealed their secret to mankind 6000 years ago. Natural indigo has been used in dyeing and it is amongst the most resistant to changes and the inevitable fading that most colors undergo. From time immemorial, it has been sought after, valued and traded, its presence extending to the four corners of the world.


Nasser Soumi

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