Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Red and the Green: an early Nigerian gown.

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AGB123 - To understand this important nineteenth century Yoruba robe we have to think back to a time when industrial thread was a rare luxury import in many parts in the region. One of the very highest status and most luxurious of these prestige robes for the wealthiest chiefs was that woven from magenta coloured "alaari" silk that reached Nigeria from the north of Africa via the trans-Saharan caravan trade. These "red" silk robes were almost always decorated with green embroidery - I had a fine example until recently (photo on request.)

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At the same period in the second half of the nineteenth century small quantities of industrial thread from Europe became available, both from the trans-Saharan trade and from European merchants who were establishing themselves in growing numbers on the coast. In a context of competitive dress display in which wealthy men competed in prestige attire to display novel and luxurious variations we can imagine a robe such as this - an "alaari" robe but in the new, slightly different and for the time being even rarer, type of "red" being exceptionally highly prized. The only other early red cotton robe I know of is in the British Museum and was collected in the 1860s. Dates from late C19th. Condition: excellent. Measurement: 113 inches x 53 ins, 287cm x 135cm. PRICE: Email for price.

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Click here to see this robe and more of our current inventory at our online gallery.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Some comments on the diisa

Happy to get some interesting comments on yesterday’s post on the diisa, a long fringed indigo men’s shawl, through my Facebook and Instagram pages.

Malian artist and master dyer Aboubakar Fofana commented:

“these two photos are amazing. The dissa shawl was such an important piece for a man from this region. It was given to a young man by his mother when he got married. She would have saved for this shawl since her son was very young- they were a lot of work and were worth the same as 10 head of cattle. They were indigo dyed, and when the man died, this shawl would be his shroud. The celestial blue of indigo would help him pass from this world to heaven. I'm very proud to be making a modern interpretation of the dissa, with its long fringes, and I hope I am carrying on the tradition of something important in my culture.”

And Belgian art historian Patricia Gerimont, who is working on a book on indigo dyeing in Mali, supplied this information on indigo in Burkina Faso (my translation.)

“the indigo shawls and wrappers in Burkina are dyed by a specific group called the Yarsé, and also by other groups of Marka dyers. The Yarsé speak Mossi but are of Marka origin, you also find them in Dogon country under the name Yélin.”

And here is another photo of Samory Touré wearing his diisa.

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Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Diisa, an indigo scarf of the Sahel.

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The photo, by photographer Edmond Fortier, shows the Dioula warlord Samory Touré wearing on his head a plain fringed indigo headscarf called a diisa. In a brief discussion of these distinctive cloths in his book Textiles du Mali (Bamako 2003) Bernhard Gardi suggests these cloths were usually a mark of rank. Similar cloths, worn around the hips by young Dogon men, are seen in the photo below, also by Fortier.

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And by a Wolof trader below:

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Looking at the group of long fringed cloths from Burkina Faso that I posted on my site last week, one of which is shown below, and the remainder here, it seems likely that the tie-dye patterned examples form a previously unnoticed regional variation on this wider tradition of men’s prestige cloths.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Dogon uldebe cloths

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Dogon elders wearing indigo and white cotton uldebe cloths. These cloths are still important among the Dogon as a mark of high status and will play an important role in funeral rites. Photo by Boukary Konate on Facebook.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Mossi Indigo Shawls

Rare variant style of vintage Mossi indigo shawls from Burkina Faso with 10 inch long braided fringes and tie dye patterning. There is a deluge of mostly very mediocre indigo dyed cloths coming out of Burkina at the moment but careful searching can uncover some gems amongst them. Message me for sizes and prices.

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

New book: “Indigo Quilts–30 Quilts from the Poos Collection” by Kay and Lori Lee Triplett

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I usually steer clear of commenting on books about African-American quilting and apparent affinities with aspects of African textiles as it is a controversial topic that, to be honest, doesn’t directly impact on my own interest in understanding more about the history of West African textiles themselves.  However this welcome book by quilt and textile collectors Kay and Lori Lee Triplett breaks new ground by looking instead to the indigo fabric used in making the quilts and a detailed, archive research based, exploration of the role of African-American slaves and ex-slaves in the early production of indigo resist dyed cloth in the Americas. This is preceded by a stimulating overview of the history of indigo dyeing within West Africa, and illustrated with both West African textiles and a selection of remarkable antique indigo and white quilts from their collection.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Wodaabe Men’s Festival Attire, Niger.

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Photo taken from the book “Nomads who cultivate beauty” by Mette Bovin (Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2001) in my view the most interesting of many books on the Wodaabe nomads of Niger. Bovon notes that this picture was taken in 1975 by a local photographer Yacoubou in Diffa. She noted – ‘Young men nowadays laugh when they see this photo, and comment “How old-fashioned they look, the mirrors are too big and hanging too low. Our fashion today is much smarter, more chic. But look, all three men’s faces are pretty.”’

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AGB110 - Fine example of a open-sided hand embroidered tunic of a type worn by young men of the nomadic Wodaabe people of Niger for certain important ceremonial occasions. The embroidery patterns are named after aspects of nomadic lifestyle such as the layout of the camp site, and are executed on a backing cloth of very narrow (1cm) width strip woven cloth, the most expensive and prestigious fabric available. It was woven by Hausa weavers in the vicinity of Kano in northern Nigeria for sale to the nomadic peoples of the Sahel and Sahara to the north.

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The tunics were worn over a skirt fashioned from a wrapped goat skin and were adorned with hanging jewellery and other finery in an effort to draw the eye as the man danced in a row among the other young men of his clan. See the photgraph at the foot of this page taken from the book “Nomads who cultivate beauty” by Mette Bovin (Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2001). A notable feature of this example is the asymmetric layout of the embroidery on the reverse of the robe. Wodaabe tunic of this quality are now becoming rather hard to source and increasingly rare. Condition: excellent. Age: circa mid C20th. Measures: 67 inches x 18 (+ arms), 170cm x 46. PRICE: US$2175.

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