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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

out of africa

Last night, a longtime client had some African textiles delivered by messenger to my home. I know what you are thinking Kuba cloth or mud cloth. It is what many associate with when they think of tribal textiles. Actually to my surprise some very beautiful hand screened textiles from Tanzania had arrived. He had acquired them on one of his travels. I immediately thought contemporary. Of course the graphic patterns really spoke to me. I was excited by the endless possibilities that were available. I had been intrigued by the brightly coloured graphic woven textiles .My first exposure was when I went to visit The Ashanti exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum when I was a kid.
I did some research to discover the rich heritage that is Africa and the textiles woven by its many people, each with their distinct culture and deep, long history. Below is some information about the textiles that I have shown above.
Textile. The word textile, comes form the Latin "texere," to weave. African textile is rich in colors, and is endlessly creative in geometrical design. Hand made textile, from the hands of weavers, spinners and dyers, is related to ancient pre-colonial traditions. Particular colors, shapes, and decorations may have political and ritual significance. Textiles are used not only to make articles of clothing, but also for decoration, to dress a house or a shrine during important events, or simply as gifts. The meaning of color varies from place to place. In Benin the color red is part of their ceremonial court dress, among the Ebira red color is associated with success, while in Madagascar red is applied to burial cloths. In most of West Africa, Ethiopia, East Africa and Zaire, all weaving is done by men. In North Africa and Madagascar, all weaving is done by women. In other areas both men and women weave. The most common materials used in weaving are wool, silk, cotton, bast, and raphia. Indigo is the most common dye, and is obtain from various plants of the genus Indigofera. Indigo gives various shades from pale blue to deep black. Other colors like red, yellow, blue, green, brown, and black are available from local vegetable and mineral sources.

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