Although there are currently large quantities of fairly recently woven cloths from the Baule peoples of Côte D’Ivoire in the international market, the earlier textile traditions of that country remain obscure and little researched. Much of the detail of the historical relationship between Ivoirian textiles and those of neighbouring countries such as Mali and Ghana is still to be understood. How do earlier cloths relate to the ethnic groups such as Senufo, Guro, and Baule that are so well known to collectors of African sculpture ? Looking carefully at textiles with early acquisition dates in museum collections is one way in which scholars can begin to address some of these issues. The three cloths shown below were accessioned by Newark Museum in 1928 and according to records generously shared by Newark Museum Research Associate Roger D. Arnold were purchased that year from a gallery in Paris. The first and to me most interesting (Newark Museum #28.835) is to my knowledge the earliest recorded example of this very elaborate and odd type of cloth that a couple of later sources have attributed to the Guro.
As Roger suggested to me there are intriguing visual similarities between this cloth and some from Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde.
The other two (Newark Museum#28.836 & 28.862) are fine examples of a slightly better known type of cloth with blocks of extra weft float patterning in a style that is primarily associated with the Dioula (Jula) people of northern Côte D’Ivoire. However the use of red and yellow for the patterning in these two examples rather than the more typical white is exceptional.
Thanks are due to Roger Arnold for the images.