A little indigo, a handful of ash and time. The dye pits in Nigeria’s ancient northern city of Kano are said to be the last ones of their kind after five centuries of existence.

Many pits at Kofar Mata appear to be abandoned as the sons who inherit the tradition decide to pursue government jobs or other business, forgetting the skills passed down through generations. The men who remain, squatting over the pits with sturdy gloves and endless patience, produce the intensely blue fabrics that are internationally renowned.

The dye pits, founded in 1498, attracted travelers and traders from across the vast Sahel region to the Kano emirate, helping to make the city one of the most prosperous in West Africa at the time.

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