Tie-dyed friendshipA candid look at the color and joy of Nigeria.

"Jim Taylor bought batik fabric from an upbeat Yoruba woman, Nicky Davis, at Seattle's Folklife festival in 1972.It proved the start of a friendship reflected in a heartwarming photography exhibit opening at Pegasus March 31. The batik is beautiful, but it also has mystical and spiritual meanings I can't begin to grasp, Taylor said of the West African cloth design. I've maintained these close friendships, but I won't ever be able to understand, in entirety, the culture.Taylor purchased batik fabric at the 1972 Folklife; at the next year's event, he and Davis exchanged pleasantries. Over a decade of once-a-year interaction, the acquaintance deepened to friendship. Taylor became Davis' point of contact in Seattle, and in 1996 she invited Taylor to her Nigerian homeland, where she teaches crafts at a school in the town of Osogbo, near Africa's west coast.Taylor spent five weeks in Osogbo. He met Yoruba people and learned batik - and he took a lot of photographs.Nigeria was a political hotbed when I traveled there, Taylor said. One of my goals was to show the Yoruba culture in a positive light.Whether it is the quiet sensitivity of the photographer or the innate exuberance of his subjects that makes the match, the result is a happy one. Taylor's photographs are remarkable in the joy nearly every human subject displays. Children, women, men - all of them smile at Taylor with a pleasure that seems unfeigned, with none of the distance, wariness or slickness that are a feature of so many foreign portraits. It was amazing, Taylor said, how receptive they were to me and how thoroughly uninhibited.Taylor's subjects are often shot against the bright, patterned background of tie-died batik fabric that adds to the photographs' warmth. The Yoruba are brightly dressed for a festival, hair adorned with elaborate beadwork. At the Osogbo school, Taylor also came to understand Davis' mission to restore Yoruba culture by teaching the craft tradition. There, urban Yoruba came to learn the batik art.The techniques she taught them bore little relationship to the hippie-style tie-dye adopted in this country. Cloth is tightly-sewn with sinew in quilt-like patterns, and then dyed deep blue using the indigo plant. Some of the stitchery is later removed, creating a subtle pattern of dyed and undyed cloth - the meaning of which Taylor makes no claim to fully comprehend.Nonetheless, he said, it's a beautiful and powerful thing to behold. Osun Beauty: A Yoruba Festival, opens 1-4 p.m. March 31 at Pegasus Coffee House and runs through April 26.Gideon Oyelake, a leader of a Nigerian expatriate community in Seattle, will perform at the opening, playing the traditional hour-glass-shaped, double-ended Yoruba drum for dancers. Information: 842-6725 "

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