Saturday, November 21, 2015

African printed and dyed textiles

Africa is a great and varied continent of wide horizons and clear blue skies, which has long held a fascination for those born outside its bounds. Over the centuries its wealth of minerals, animal products and manpower has drawn in colonists and traders, slavers and missionaries alike. Its huge population is of diverse origin: people of Arab and Berber descent in the north, Khoisan-speakers and European colonists in the extreme south, Nilotic-speaking peoples in the north-east, and south of the Sahara a rich mix of groups who speak one of the Bantu languages.

Although the African textile tradition attracted  little foreign academic interest until the 20th century, African textiles found their way into European collections long before then. At the Ulm Museum in Germany, for example, there have been garments made of strip-woven cloth, the characteristic weave of West Africa, since the 1650s, and woven raphia cloth of the Kongo people (decorated with patterns similar to those of the modern-day cut-pile embroidery of the Congo’s Kuba tribe) has been held at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford since the 17th century.

Nigerian indigo dyed cloth
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