The latest issue of Hali magazine (#171, Spring 2012 – available from www.hali.com ) has two worthwhile articles on aspects of African textiles.
This beautiful and rare cloth, formerly owned by the celebrated Parisian couturier Paul Poiret and recently acquired by the MFA Boston, is the subject of an interesting and thought provoking “Masterpiece” appraisal by dealer Andres Moraga. As he points out there is still considerable uncertainty in the identification of some of these more obscure styles of blue and white cloth, woven with often quite subtle variations over a wide area under the influence of the dispersal of Mande weavers of Malian origin over many centuries. This piece is tentatively attributed to Sierra Leone on the basis of comparison with two published cloths in the Lamb collection (Gilfoy 1987 numbers 8 & 12), but to my mind is far more likely to be from northwestern Ivory Coast along with the two related cloths in the Quai Branly. In fact I would suggest that the two cloths Gilfoy published are likely not to have been woven in Sierra Leone either (for what its worth my guess would be Mali and northwestern Ivory Coast respectively.) In any event two things are clear. Firstly this is a fine and rare cloth with an exceptional provenance that deserves the consideration it is given in the article. Secondly we can note how little is known about the cloths of this whole sub-region and how much further research is urgently required.
Ros Weaver’s article Saharan Chic is a well researched introduction to the plant fibre and leather mats of the Tuareg and Maures of the Sahara, illustrated with some superb examples in the collection of Rafaelle Carrieri of the Altai Gallery, Milan.