Living Blue: Bangladeshi Indigo
We are proud to offer a beautiful organic powdered indigo, from one of the great historical indigo-producing centers located in Bangladesh (formerly Bengal) through an organization called Living Blue. Established in 2008 Living Blue empowers farmers and artisans through the cultivation and use of native Indigofera tinctoria. Living Blue provides seed, land access and know-how to those wishing to grow indigo. They also purchase indigo from small scale growers, providing additional cash crop opportunities for farmers.
Most indigo is grown in buffer zones, leaving areas for food cultivation intact. We cannot overstate the significance of this approach as the history of indigo cultivation in this area reflects a very painful past. The inhumane treatment of Bengal farmers has left a stigma on the idea of growing indigo. Living Blue mindfully addresses this dark history and works directly to re-frame indigo production as a cultural heritage crop of high value. In addition, they also encourage exquisite craft work and expert indigo dyeing as complementary practices to indigo production.
During the British colonial era, indigo cultivation was a brutal practice. Bengali farmers, growers and sharecroppers were thrust into slavery, beaten, coerced into forced indigo production, forbidden to raise food, and cheated of a fair wage for their labor. Most were indentured to British overlords. The conditions were so terrible that in 1859 a rebellion roiled indigo production. The plight of the indigo farmer in Bihar was one of the rallying causes that Gandhi used to hone his non-violent protest strategy in 1917. Indigo production declined due to the rise of synthetic indigo. Many years later, it was Living Blue who led the efforts to identify and begin cultivation of this historic and valuable crop. They encouraged farmers to cultivate it.
We offer Living Blue’s indigo in 100gm and 250 packages. It creates a very rich and dark vat. In addition, the purchase of this product supports farmers and craft workers in Bangladesh.
Notes from Kathy
You may want to grind the indigo powder to a finer consistency. Break up the grit to make the indigo easier to work with. Use a mortar and pestle and a small amount of water to make a thick paste. Grinding produces beautiful results, but it is work. It does go faster with a couple of volunteers, perhaps a few folk songs to pass the time. If you have a coffee grinder, that can also help. Wear a dust mask or respirator to avoid breathing powder.