Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Lamb Collection of African Textiles on-line

Venice Lamb is a pioneering figure in the study and documentation of West African textiles. The series of books she published together her husband Alastair in the 1970s and 80s are still the only monographs devoted to most of these areas, and remain essential both for the wide variety of photographs and their recording of many traditions that have since evolved markedly or in some cases disappeared altogether: Venice Lamb, West African Weaving (Duckworth, 1975) – mainly covering Ghana; Venice Lamb & Judy Holmes, Nigerian Weaving (Roxford, 1980); Venice & Alastair Lamb, Au Cameroun Weaving – Tissage (Roxford, 1981); Venice & Alastair Lamb, Sierra Leone Weaving (Roxford, 1984).

The collection of textiles assembled by the Lambs is owned jointly by the National Museum of African Art and the National Museum of Natural History in Washington. Part of the collection was exhibited soon after the purchase and highlights of this may be seen in the small but important book by Peggy Stoltz Gilfoy, Patterns of Life: West African Strip Weaving Traditions (Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, 1987.) A small number of the Lamb cloths are also online as collection highlights at the National Museum of African Art website – search for “Costume and textiles” on the Advanced Search page here.

More importantly for scholars of African textiles, it is now possible to access a large part of the Lamb collection through the main Smithsonian database here. Entering “Venice Lamb” as the search term pulls up 1563 records, of which 988 include photos online. The strength of the Lamb’s collection of Asante kente cloths is well known and most of the major pieces have been published, but I was interested to see a number of very fine small cloths, described as shawls or headtie’s. Brigitte Menzel also collected a number of these miniature kente in the 1970s but I have seen only one in all my years of collecting in Ghana.

Click on photos for larger views…..

112cm x 59.3cm
NMNHEJ10594 USNM#:EJ10594.
”liar’s cloth” pattern.
81cm x 37cm

Also of interest is a group of Manjak and Papel cloths from Guinea Bissau.

NMNHEJ10109 USNM#:EJ10109.
Wrapper, 185cm x 114cm.

For me though the most exciting pieces are three cloths unlike any I have seen before…..

NMNHEJ10227 USNM#:EJ10227.
Shroud. 219cm x 168c.
Collected in Ferkessedougou, Cote D’Ivoire.
NMNHEJ10375 USNM#:EJ10375.
Woman’s wrapper. 159cm x 104cm. Collected 1980 in Bafodia, Sierra Leone.
NMNHEJ11423 USMN#:EJ11423.
233cm x 56cm. Collected in 1975 in D.R. Congo. Donor’s comment – “string net cloth, the function of this unusual cloth is not clear.”
My own comment would be that surely this strip woven cloth must have been traded to Congo from West Africa.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

“African Lace” exhibition in Vienna–some photographs

Images from the exhibition “African Lace” at the Ethnology Museum, Vienna, from 22 October 2010 to 14 February 2011. Organised jointly with the National Museum in Lagos, where the show will also appear in 2011, these photographs are courtesy of the co-curator Dr Barbara Plankensteiner and are copyright the museum as follows: Photographs: Alexander Rosoli, © KHM mit MVK und ÖTM. Please do not reproduce them without direct permission from the museum. Click on any image to see a larger version.







There are also two videos of the show posted on YouTube:

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Exceptional early Kuba cloth at Sotheby’s Paris


Lot 7 in Sotheby’s forthcoming African Art sale “A New York Collection” to be held in Paris on November 30th is this superb early raffia textile from the Kuba kingdon in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Estimated at Euro 1000 – 2000 and measuring 76cm x 57, this piece is reminiscent of some of the earliest Kuba cloths from the British Museum’s Torday collection.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Wearing African Textiles–part 4.

Chief Kai Lunda of Luawa Country, Upper Mendi, circa 1893. He was chief of an area on the border between Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Vintage postcard, authors collection.
Manding robe, C19th, author’s collection. These rare robes are discussed in Bernard Gardi Le Boubou C’est Chic (Basel, 2000.) Less than 25 examples are known from museum collections worldwide.

Wearing African Textiles - part 3

dowdah Yoruba aso oke strip woven cloth from Nigeria was widely admired in West Africa and was traded in large quantities to nearby countries. In this rare postcard image from Sierra Leone, taken around 1905, the lady at the right is wearing an aso oke shawl similar to the C19th example below.
Asooke361 Very rare C19th wrapper cloth. Magenta trans-Saharan silk is used for both warp and weft in the plain strips making the cloth very lightweight. These strips alternate with magenta silk weft float patterns on a fine blue and white check ground. This is an early example of a style of cloth that continued to be made into the 1950s. More information on this cloth in our online gallery here