I know the blog is getting a bit stripe-heavy these days, but it is what it is…This particular stripe comes from Maroc Tribal, a site selling new and old Moroccan carpets and textiles.
I’ve been vaguely aware of the Malian photographer Seydou Keita (1921-2001) for awhile now — though his only actual presence in my life comes in the form of an unfulfilled Amazon wish list item, since the main book on him is selling for over $350. Today he popped up again in what looks like will be another missed encounter: his photography is included in the current Metropolitan Museum exhibition The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End, showing until April 5th. I don’t think I’m going to be in NYC before then, but if you are — try to make it to this exhibit! It looks wonderful.
Holy smokes this is a find! Thanks to a comment by Cristina on an earlier post I’m now in wax-print heaven over here at Vlisco – founded on Holland in 1846 and still going strong!
Rosa commented on my previous post and introduced me to her beautiful blog and the wax prints she sells on a parallel site. It’s all eye candy to me — and tantalizingly out of reach since her blog is in Portuguese. The fabric above is so pretty though, especially the crisp contrast between the vibrant blue and orange. It looks like Rosa gives a wonderful description of it – but I’m afraid google translator hasn’t served me very well: something about “Reza” (the type of cloth?) being born in Kenya in the mid 19th century — and having something to do with Portuguese trade. Or is it that they are Indian scarves that were traded as currency in Kenya? Something like that.
Rosa wrote me with some added explanation of the fabric:
The fabric in the photo is a traditional headscarf from Mozambique (a former portuguese colony in East Africa), and my post is about the history of the kanga/chitenge, also known as pagne or capulana. Chitenge was originally made from six headscarves like the one in the photo sewn together ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitenge ).
Thank you Rosa!
I got an email from Ananse Village today alerting me to their collection of African textiles. I’m fascinated by the pattern of this Ghana wax print – along with some others on their site. (What’s the inspiration behind the trio of hands, or are they pairs of hands praying?) This also reminds me of an earlier posting (mystery still unsolved) of a fabric owned by a dear friend.
InStyle magazine did a little product write up on these African baskets in their July 2008 issue. Sold through swahili-imports, they’re good looking, functional and fair-trade friendly.
This photograph in the 6/15/08 edition of the New York Times magazine struck me immediately with its strong textile content. (Accompanying article is “The Man for A New Sedan”; photo caption reads “A camp for members of the Dinka tribe outside the town of Abyei, Sudan”; photographer is J. Carrier.) The seamlessness of the colors between the woman, the background (partially cropped here) and the fabric makes it look almost staged (not that it was – ) but more than that I’m curious about the fabric itself. It doesn’t look “traditionally” African to me (an extremely broad category of course) and looks like it’s been produced for sale by the yard. Who designs fabrics like this and how do they end up in African markets? Are they made in China and then imported, or are they made on the continent? I’d love to trace a fabric like this from design conception to its final customer…
On a different note, the pattern and coloration make me think of paintings by Cezanne — particularly some of his depictions of faraway landscapes and fields. I didn’t find what I had in mind online but did see this painting by the artist (also cropped) on the Metropolitan Museum website. The nearly identical color palette makes for an interesting visual comparison, not to mention the juxtaposition between the implied material poverty of the woman and the bounty of Cezanne’s still life.
The above image by Jason Reed of Reuters showing President Bush meeting tribal leaders in Ghana on Wednesday is a perfect addition to my occasional look at “textiles in the news”. I pulled out Josh Gillow’s African Textiles book this evening to see what it is the man and woman closest to Bush are wearing. From this I can be fairly certain it’s an Ewe adanudo cloth. Both the Ewe and Ashanti peoples are located in Ghana and their textiles, the adanudo and kente respectively, are quite similar. Gillow describes the adanudo as having “weft float motifs” and the kente as a “strip woven” cloth. I found the image of an adanudo (below top) on the Hamill Gallery website.
San Francisco’s annual Tribal & Textile Arts Show was held this weekend. As in previous years it offered a visual feast of wildly different textiles (and other objects of all kinds). This evening I’ve been perusing the websites of the stalls represented and will be exploring them further in the next few days. For now, here’s one striking textile shown on Gail Martin Gallery’s website. It’s described as a “Section from a Ceremonial Dance Skirt” from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kuba People, 20th century. It’s made of resist dyed raffia and is 22″ x 29″.
I spent the three day weekend several hours north visiting friends in the beautiful coastal redwoods area north of Eureka California. My friend and host collected this fabric in her travels to Sierra Leone a few years ago and it now serves as kitchen curtains. All my own French lessons have escaped me but I’m told “Si Je Savais” means something like “had I only known”. The other phrase, “Se My Siso” is a mystery but is probably from a local dialect. It’s clearly a contemporary fabric (she bought it by the yard in a market) so I wonder if it’s possibly an example of anti HIV/Aids propaganda? Maybe the woman is grieving new knowledge of her own status? In graphic terms I love that the design of her skirt is also the design of the background cloth surrounding each medallion. Mostly though I’m intrigued by what the text of the fabric actually means and who it’s intended for. If it is about HIV did the manufacturers expect the cloth to be purchased and used decoratively?
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