The Living Blue: A 14-day residential indigo workshop in Bali with Aboubakar Fofana and Threads of Life

Sun, 25 February 2018, 2:00 PM - Sat, 10 March 2018, 12:00 PM [SST]


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Available Tickets - Sales end on -24/02/2018

Check-in Sunday, 25 February 2018 after 2 pm and check-out Saturday, 10 March 2018 before 12 pm. Includes twin-share accommodations; 10 days of workshop program program; arrival and departure airport transfers; breakfasts, 10 lunches, 2 dinners; scheduled local transportation. (Note: twin share rooms may be made up with a king size bed for couples; single room supplements available on request; shared accommodations for a participant’s partner available on request.)


Available Tickets - Sales end on -24/02/2018

Arrive Sunday, 25 February 2018 and depart Saturday, 10 March 2018. Includes 10 days of workshop program program; arrival and departure airport transfers; 10 lunches, 2 dinners; scheduled local transportation; morning and afternoon transfers between accommodations in central Ubud and the workshop venue.

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Event Information

Sun, 25 February 2018, 2:00 PM - Sat, 10 March 2018, 12:00 PM [SST]

About the Event

The Living Blue with Aboubakar Fofana and Threads of Life

25th February to 10th March 2018 (26th February to 9th March non-residential)

Total event capacity – residential plus non-residential – is 10 participants

A 14-day indigo fermentation residential workshop combining the colour and wisdom of Mali and Indonesia for a unique small-group intensive experience at the Threads of Life dye studio and botanical garden in Umajati Retreat, Ubud, Bali. Open to beginners and experienced practitioners


Aboubakar Fofana describes an indigo vat as “a living organism” of plant materials, fermentation and colour, and is recognised as one of the world's foremost practitioners of fermented indigo vat dyeing and mineral mud-dye techniques. This intensive 14-day residential workshop (12-day non-residential) focusses on Aboubakar's speciality, the fermented West African indigo dye-vat, made using whole indigo leaves and fermented over a week to produce a dye of unmatchable colour and fastness. Whilst participants wait for the fermented dye-vat to reach maturity, they will learn how to prepare and use powdered fructose (quick vat) indigo, mineral mud-dye, and tannin dyeing.

Threads of Life’s dye team will also contribute to the program and will offer: dyeing with fresh indigo (Indigofera tinctoria, I. suffruticosa, Strobilanthes cusia) from the dye garden as a contrast to the fermented and fructose vats; preparation of Mali-style indigo balls from Strobilanthes cusia leaves fresh from the garden; use of sustainably sourced Ceriops dyes that form the basis of the brown in Central Javanese batik; and an exploration of Indonesia’s indigenous red dye from the root bark of Morinda citrifolia, including preparation for the 2-month oiling process, and use of the Symplocos plant-based alum mordant. Being essentially yarn dyers, the Threads of Life team’s participation will contribute to the conversation as Aboubakar leads an examination of techniques for successful yarn dyeing.

Open to beginners and experienced practitioners alike, the workshop offers a professional level dyeing experience with participants expected to participate in and learn from Aboubakar’s insights into all the steps of the work from scouring, through the creative processes and dye work, to the finishing (washing) of the work. The schedule runs over two weeks with a weekend break in the middle to give time for the indigo vat to ferment and for participants to explore the culture of Bali. 

The workshop offers a residential and a non-residential option:

• The Threads of Life studio and dye garden are at the Umajati Retreat ( where residential participants will stay in shared rooms. Twin share rooms may be made up with a king size bed for couples; single room supplements are available on request; shared accommodations for a non-participant partner are available on request.

• Non-residential participants staying in the center of Ubud will be provided with morning and afternoon transfers between accommodations in central Ubud and the workshop venue.


The workshop will be held at the Threads of Life Dye Studio and Bebali Dye Garden at the Umajati Retreat


Participants will come away from the workshop with:

• a professional-level introduction to the skills of dyeing across the three major natural dye categories of vat dyes (indigo), additive dyes (mordanted dyes such as Morinda red) and substantive dyes (using tannins); 

• several sets of dyed samples; 

• and a larger completed personal project that should showcase many of the dyes and the techniques studied in the course.


Aboubakar Fofana  Komang Sujata  Wayan Sukadana  

Workshop teacher Aboubakar Fofana (image by Sandy Haessner), Threads of Life dyers Komang Sujata, Wayan Sukadana and Made Maduarta



Aboubakar Fofana was born in Mali and lives between there and France. He is a calligrapher, textile designer, artist and master dyer. His work is motivated by a love for the natural world and its cycles and rhythms, a deep concern for the environment, and a vision to share the luxury and beauty of goods produced using indigenous materials and techniques whilst helping to reinvigorate and sustain important traditions. His atelier is in Bamako, Mali, and he regularly travels the world giving workshops and lectures, and meeting others who work with natural dyes and textiles.

Threads of Life’s staff dyers and local botanists, Komang Sujata, Wayan Sukadana and Made Maduarta, bring a combined 35 years of experience to this collaborative workshop. Focusing on traditions that have degraded and are being recovered, they document local recipes and processes in the field, and test them in the studio before taking suggested refinements back to the communities. In the dye garden they establish cultivation and harvesting methods to address plant resource scarcity being faced by traditional dyers. 

Aboubakar and Threads of Life share an approach to natural dyeing that seeks plant-sourced dyes by plant-sourced processes and avoids synthetic additives or mordants. And where Aboubakar finds the root of this approach in his West African animistic heritage, Threads of Life’s staff dyers find their inspiration in the animistic practices articulated through Indonesia’s indigenous textile traditions. Bringing these two traditions together promises to be a vibrant and exciting experience. As Aboubakar says, the work is about reviving as a “5000 year old story of ancient technology now given a contemporary language”.



Arrival: 25 February 2018

Group introductions and dinner at Umajati Retreat.

Week 1: 26 February — 02 March

Participants will learn how to set up both the fermented and the fructose indigo dye-vats, and how to care for them and prolong their lives. They will explore the very different process of mineral mud-dyes, and mordants and assists will be explained and demonstrated. There will be comprehensive explanations of how to prepare textiles for the different types of dyes we will be using. Participants will make sample sets for the dyes used, and begin to learn about over-dyeing to create different shades and colours.

Weekend: 03 — 04 March

Have free time to relax or explore the culture of Bali.

Week 2: 05 — 09 March

By the beginning of the second week, participants will start work on a project. Any natural fibre is suitable. You will be able to develop ONE cloths as your project and this may come from amongst the following sources: you will get two scarf-size blanks, one of cotton and one of silk, as part of the workshop; you may use your own cloth, as long as it is no larger than one metre square; also, we will have stock of various Indonesian and Malian plain yardage and finished textiles available for purchase. Aboubakar will be on hand at all times to assist and answer questions, and to help participants realise their ideas. 

Finally, coming full circle, the fermented indigo vat will be ready to use and we will complete the final stage of the course, tying everything in together and hopefully creating some beautiful and very colourful final projects. By the end of this workshop, participants will have enough knowledge and confidence to begin working with many of the dyes and the techniques used in this workshop. The technique of fermented indigo is one that takes years to master, and so should be treated as an exploration of fermented indigo rather than a definitive class. The fructose indigo vat however works on similar principles and is easily put together at home. 

Departure: 10 March 2018



Threads of Life’s natural dye studio and garden is on the Umajati Retreat property. Beside its field-based research, the studio is also a workshop space for indigenous and visiting dyers, and a small-scale production space. The garden is both for education and production purposes, with plants labeled for botanical names and uses, and grown for use in the studio.




Included for all participants:

10 days of workshop program; arrival and departure airport transfers; 10 lunches, 2 dinners; scheduled local transportation. 

Included for residential participants:

13 nights of twin-share accommodations, 13 breakfasts.

Note: twin share rooms may be made up with a king size bed for couples; single room supplements available on request; shared accommodations for a participant’s partner available on request.

Included for non-residential participants:

Morning and afternoon shuttle transfers between accommodations in central Ubud and the workshop venue are included in the workshop. The shuttle route will be along Raya Ubud Road (, Hanoman Road (, Monkey Forest Road (, and Suweta Road ( and participants will be notified before the workshop what time and where their morning pick-up will be.


Payment will be made through PayPal via an automatic link in the booking website. You do not need to have a PayPal account to make a payment; PayPal will simply be used to process your credit card payment.

Payment Problems

If you do not have a credit card or if the link between the booking website and PayPal fails, payment can be made directly: 

(1) Complete the registration process as far as you can then contact and tell us you were unable to complete your registration; we will then put your place on hold so that it does not get rebooked

(2a) Make payment through your PayPal account to

(2b) Or make payment by bank transfer to: Account name — PT Ersania; Account number — 2-195-091015; Bank Name — Maybank Indonesia; SWIFT code — IBBK IDJA; Bank Branch — Ubud; Branch Address — Jalan Raya Ubud, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia.

Participant Cancellation and Refunds

The teachers’ travel and organizational costs for this workshop are significant and in order to maintain a small group that offers personalized teaching to serious participants we have to have a strict cancellation policy. Payment is therefore non-refundable except under the following conditions:

• If a cancelled participant’s place is resold and the workshop achieves its maximum group capacity (see Group Size, Airfares, and Workshop Confirmation), a full refund will be made;

• If a cancelling participant finds a new participant to replace them, their payment may be transferred to the new participant;

• All refunds will be processed within 28 days of the start of the workshop. Refunds will be reversed directly from PayPal to your PayPal account or credit card.

Cancellation requests must be made by email to No refund will be made for failure to attend or if you voluntarily leave the workshop for any reason after it has begun. No refunds will be given for any accommodation, transport, sightseeing, meals or services not used during the workshop. 

Workshop Cancellation by Organizers

If the workshop is cancelled by the organizers, there will be a 100% refund of participants’ workshop payments within 28 days of the cancellation; however, we cannot be responsible for refunds of participants’ airfares or non-residential accommodation costs (see Group Size, Airfares, and Workshop Confirmation). In the event that an eruption of Mount Agung on Bali makes it likely that the hosting of the workshop will be disrupted or unsafe, the organizers will cancel the workshop and make full refunds of participants’ workshop payments; however, in such circumstances the organizers cannot be responsible for any participants’ airfares or non-resident participants’ accommodations.

Group Size, Airfares, and Workshop Confirmation

Maximum group size is 10 participants. Minimum group size is 7 participants. Though tickets generally sell very quickly and there is generally a waiting list for Aboubakar’s workshops, if the group size is less than 7 the workshop may have to be cancelled. We therefore recommend participants wait to buy their tickets to Bali, and if they are non-residential participants to pay for their accommodations, until we confirm by email that the minimum participation has been achieved. 

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is required for all participants. Travel insurance should, at minimum, provide coverage against trip cancellation, personal accident, personal liability, medical expenses, and emergency evacuation. (An emergency air medical evacuation to Singapore can cost upwards of USD 30,000.) Medical care facilities in Indonesia are significantly different from the West and medical evacuation is extremely expensive.

Force Majeure

We regret we cannot accept liability or pay any compensation where the performance or prompt performance of our contractual obligations is prevented or affected by reason of circumstances amounting to “force majeure”. Circumstances amounting to “force majeure” include any event which Threads of Life and workshop leader(s) could not even with all due care, foresee or forestall such as (by way of example and not by way of limitation) acts of God, terrorist activities, insurrection, explosion, flood, tempest, forceful wind, fire or accident, war or threat of war declared or undeclared, sabotage, civil disturbance, labor strikes, requisition, sickness, quarantine, government intervention, weather conditions, and unforeseen circumstances.

About the Organizer

Threads of Life works with over 1,000 women weavers in more than 50 communities on 12 islands across Indonesia to support the continued expression of indigenous textile traditions at their highest level and using natural dyes. By facilitating the continued articulation of ancestral values concerning textile meanings and dye plant use, Threads of Life shares this wisdom with the world and builds livelihoods based on contemporary textile production. The Threads of Life gallery in Ubud, Bali, features masterworks from contemporary weavers of traditional textiles from across Indonesia. These are curated with extensive cultural background information and video in a retail gallery. The shop space also sells smaller wearable scarves and textiles, along with basketry, decorative pillows and other homewares crafted to the highest standards from materials made in the communities with which Threads of Life works.

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