Over the past week I have been adding photographs to a new section on my Pinterest page featuring a curated selection of cloths and robes from Sierra Leone and Liberia. Early textiles from this region of West Africa are extremely scarce and the images I have been able to locate probably represent around 50% or more of all surviving examples of the more elaborate and distinctive types.
Most, but not all, of the cloths shown will have been woven on variants of the distinctive tripod loom shown above (in a postcard from circa 1900-1910 by the photographer W.S. Johnson). Rather than being worn as wrappers like the more simple blue, white and brown warp striped cloths also woven, most of these large cloths would have been prestige possessions of chiefs and important families and used as hangings and backdrops for events such as chieftaincy ceremonies, young women’s ‘coming of age’ events etcetera.
Above is a rare image from neighbouring Guinea circa 1900-1910 showing the use of a prestige cloth as the backdrop to a chief’s portrait photograph.
For more images of Sierra Leone weavers see my earlier post here and more recent photographs that I took of a tripod loom weaver near Freetown may be seen here. For more about Sierra Leone culture more generally please visit the website of the excellent Sierra Leone Heritage project.
See the full selection of cloths here.