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Display explores painful history of indigo dye and slavery

A new display at Walthamstow’s William Morris Gallery explores the long association of indigo dye with slavery and imperialism, as well as its cultural significance today.

The culmination of textile artist Lucille Junkere’s residency at the Gallery, All Blues examines the complex and painful history of indigo. On display is a “sample book” documenting Junkere's artistic journey into this fascinating colour.

The title of the exhibition comes from a track on jazz musician Miles Davis’s seminal Kind of Blue, whose lyrics and music capture the beauty and pain surrounding natural indigo. For Junkere, blues music is the spiritual connection between the indigo plant, grown in many southern American slave plantations, and the West African slaves who sang of their suffering as they worked on the cotton that the indigo dyed.

The theme of Junkere’s residency was inspired by the work of William Morris and dye chemist Thomas Wardle, who together revived the ancient indigo discharge method of dyeing. The technique was used to print many of Morris’s best loved patterns, including Strawberry Thief and Brother Rabbit.

Junkere’s residency is supported by the Arts Council and William Morris Gallery with recycled cotton provided by Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development (TRAID).

Lucille Junkere said: “I first learnt about indigo through William Morris but I made a much more personal connection with the plant when I visited Nigeria and experienced the Yoruba approach to using the dye. It has been wonderful to go back to the beginning and engage with the William Morris Gallery and library collection in a completely different way.

“Working in just one colour has been a challenge but at the same time presented endless possibilities. Inspired by Morris I have created my own indigo samples to explore different techniques and indigo recipes and the footprint of my materials. The more I work with this fascinating plant dye, the deeper my appreciation.”

Notes to editors

Lucille Junkere: All Blues

Until 14 June 2015

William Morris Gallery

Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London, E17 4PP

Open Wednesday - Sunday, 10am-5pm; free

For further information please contact Ian Mason:

Tel: 020 8496 4726

Mob: 07740 046143


High resolution images can be downloaded from:

(All images © Lucille Junkere)

Related events

Dyeing Workshop: Adire

18 April 2015

10:00 - 16:00

Free, booking essential. To book email or telephone 020 8496 4390.

Learn about the mystical properties of natural indigo dye and create your own uniquely patterned fabric to take home. Led by Lucille Junkere, this one-day workshop looks in depth at the art of Adire, resist dyed textiles traditionally made by people in Yorubaland, Nigeria.

WMG Late: All Blues

4 June 2015

18:30 - 22:30

Free; no need to book

Inspired by Lucille Junkere's work on indigo, the Gallery hosts an evening of live blues music with Errol Linton, Adam Blake and Lance Rose. Plus Lucille shows us how to dye using natural indigo and discusses the resist dyeing techniques used in the Nigerian art of Adire.

About Lucille Junkere

Lucille Junkere is a textile artist and natural dyer. Her work combines millinery skills perfected at the London College of Fashion with the fluid character of hand and machine embroidery. She is concerned with the social and environmental impact of the textile industry and uses textile waste, water based inks, natural fibres and dyes in her work.

In the Caribbean Junkere researched the loss of textile traditions through colonialism. She then started a deeper exploration of her own cultural ancestry through the history and use of indigo dye. Her residency at the Gallery is part of her personal and artistic journey.

About the William Morris Gallery

The William Morris Gallery is the only public Gallery devoted to William Morris: designer, craftsman and radical socialist. Housed in the grade II* listed building that was Morris's family home from 1848 to 1856, the Gallery reopened in August 2012 following a major redevelopment that attracted widespread public and press acclaim.

Since its relaunch the Gallery has developed an ambitious contemporary programme, hosting Morris-inspired exhibitions by artists including Grayson Perry and Jeremy Deller.

The Gallery, which is owned and run by Waltham Forest Council, is the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2013 and has been nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award 2014.

The Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm; admission is free.

If you would like more information about any of these press releases or have a different media enquiry please contact us at or on 020 8496 4521 / 4802.

For out of hours please email or call 07966 915 157.