Tigi Dankay Daramy is a traditional Gara Dyer. Having been taught the art by her mother, she is continuing the long tradition of women passing down this technique through generations. She uses Gara cloth, which is special in Sierra Leone, her home country. It is used for traditional dress for weddings, festivals and special occasions. She makes the dye by pounding leaves together and soaking them in water for days, adding root from another plant to darken the dye – everyone in her family knows how to do it. When Tigi came to Australia she looked everywhere to find a place to continue dying. She had no dye, no material and no space to work. Now she is building her own business and learning more and more about the Australian market.
Tigi came to Australia in 2001 with six of her eight children as a refugee, after civil war had broken out in Sierra Leone and she lost her husband. They went to Guinea, where they waited for three years to be sent somewhere safer. Even then Tigi would dye, using different dyes and colours, and selling fabrics to support her family. Today she lives in South Western Sydney with three of her children and four grandchildren, while her other children and grandchildren live in Germany. Still, whenever she she dyes, her mind goes far away, to Sierra Leone. “I remember how it went. Everyone is going to dye today, or everyone is going to bind today. Everyone is together, busy,” she says. Her dream is to teach Gara dying to other men and women from Sierra Leone, so that the tradition is not lost, and to help give them a sense of connection to the place where they came from.