Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Basel exhibition - Woven Beauty
The exhibition is displayed over three floors in an annex of the Museum der Kulturen in the medievel old centre of Basel. The main museum buildings are currently closed for a major restructuring designed by Basel's star architects Herzog & de Meuron. The bulk of the exhibition is made up of three large galleries, the first devoted to mainly to Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire, the second to Mali, and the third to Nigeria. In each the complete cloths are fully visible, without glass, hung either on the walls or on central panels. This allows the visitor both to take in the full visual impact of each cloth and to move as close as desired in order to examine pattern details or weave structures. Highlights of the ground floor gallery are the museum's three C19th Ghanaian cloths including one presented to a Basel missionary by the King of Akropong in 1840 that is the earliest documented "kente." Selections from the museum's comprehensive collection of Fulani kaasa and arkilla blankets, along with a modern figurative "couverture personnage" by Oumar Bocoum made up the Malian section on the first floor. The final main gallery showed an interesting range of Nigerian textiles from two rare C19th magenta silk "alaari" wrappers to a shiny rayon shawl woven in Okene early in the C21st. Smaller galleries explained the techniques and materials used in making African textiles, as did a short video that included rare footage of a single-heddle Cameroon ground loom in action. Captions and texts throughout were in English as well as French and German.