Sunday, 27 September 2009

Sierra Leone textiles - the search begins

I made a brief first visit last week to Freetown, Sierra Leone. I didn't really expect to find any old cloths straight away so was not too disappointed when all that was to be seen at the market was rather badly woven and unappealing new blankets. Freetown itself was peaceful and interesting, with a spectacular setting and a great beach. These images are the first of a couple of posts this week to mark the trip, reminding myself at least of the great textile traditions of the past....

This card, postmarked 1902, shows the distinctive tripod mounted loom unique to Sierra Leone and neighboring areas of Guinea and Liberia. The sender of the card writes " I saw one of these weavers at work and bought his whole outfit. I have it here at College with about 60 yards of cloth woven."

Another early C20th card, by the noted Creole photographer W.S. Johnson, shows the full length of warp which the weaver moves along with his tripod mounted apparatus as weaving proceeds. Note the second, partially completed, warp, behind the hammock.

The finished cloth, from the Beving Collection at the British Museum, a thick handspun cotton "country cloth" called kpoikpoi. This famous cloth, which was featured in the last years Metropolitan Museum textile exhibit can be found on-line in the "Search the Collections" section of the British Museum site here by entering the reference number Af1934,0307.179

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