Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Cloth of the month–an exceptional Bondoukou man’s cloth.


fr473 - One of a very small number of museum quality Bondoukou men's cloths, this subtle and beautiful piece uses complex blocks of coloured weft threads muted by the predominant indigo warp as the sole decorative effect. Although this is a very old decorative technique found in some of the earliest Ghanaian textiles the sophisticated effect achieved here by varying the colours and the placement of blocks is to my knowledge unique. One strip is missing from each edge (they were likely removed because they were excessively frayed) but the cloth is otherwise in very good condition with no patches, holes, or stains. Dates from C19th or early C20th. Measurements: 118ins x 71ins, 300cm x 180cm. PRICE: Email for price.



Bondoukou is in the north east of Ivory Coast, not far from the border with Ghana. Culturally and historically  it shares many features with the nearby Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana, such as small Akan kingdoms and chieftaincies ruling primarily farming peoples and significant communities of Muslim traders of Malian ancestry. The textiles of this region, as I discussed in my article in Hali magazine a few years ago, now on my website here, share features with both Asante and Ewe cloths from Ghana and with Ivoirian cloths of the Guro and Baule.

Two cloths from the collection of the Museum de Kulturen, Basel, published in the important exhibition catalogue Woven Beauty: The Art of West African Textiles edited by Berhard Gardi (Basel, 2009) illustrate the early use of the same technique.


This cloth, collected in 1840, is the oldest documented kente in the world. Here red, yellow, and blue weft stripes are muted by the white warp. The author notes that it may be attributed to either an Asante or an Ewe weaver – although I would suggest the red edge strip is strongly indicative of an Ewe origin.


This second piece, collected in 1886, is attributed by the author to the Asante on the rather weak grounds that the collection location is nearer Asante than it is to the Ewe. It is closer to our cloth in that indigo and white stripes are used in the warp although the variety of weft colours is still much less, and the pattern layout much less sophisticated. Click on the photos to enlarge. More Bondoukou cloths on our website here.

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