Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Fulani Woman by Monique Cras, Africaniste painter


Watercolour, Femme Foulah – Dalaba, Guinee, 1939, by Monique Cras (Christie’s Amsterdam, 24/5/2000 lot 173. )

Monique Cras (1910-2007) is one of my favourite artists of the French and Belgian Africaniste school, notable for her sensitive studies of both men and women in French colonial Africa. I will post a larger group of images of her work soon. Click on images to enlarge.


Vintage postcard, circa 1920, publisher & photographer unknown, author’s collection. Fulani or Peul woman.

Adire African Textiles mailing list


We are now doing a monthly mailing list that will summarize updates on our website, blog, any additional news, etc. If you are interested please follow this link to our website and enter your email in the box provided: Adire African Textiles.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Kuba: some early textiles and photographs


In this post, to mark the on-going Kuba textile exhibition at the Textile Museum, Washington, we will look at some fine images of textile production and use among the Kuba, plus a couple of cloths from notable early collections. These photographs were taken by the Polish photographer Casimir Zagourski (1883-1944, )who lived in Leopoldville, in the then Belgian Congo, from 1924 until his death. They form part of a large series of images that Zagourski distributed in the 1930s as postcards and complete albums under the title L’Afrique qui disparait. These were published in a book Lost Africa by Pierre Loos (Skira, 2001). For more information on Zagourski see C. Geary, In and Out of Focus: Images from Central Africa 1885-1960 (National Museum of African Art, 2002).  Click on any image to enlarge.





The earliest foreign visitor who was able to reach the capital of the Kuba kingdom was the African American missionary William H. Sheppard, in 1892. The large collection of artefacts he assembled, including the cut pile embroidered panel below, is now in Hampton University Museum, VA and is the most important source of information on Kuba material culture in the late C19th. See the Center for African Art catalogue Art/Artifact (1988) for more details.


The next important visitor to document the Kuba kingdom and its neighbours was the Hungarian ethnographer Emil Torday (1875-1931.) Torday’s extensive collections of Kuba and related objects gathered between 1900-1909 are now in the British Museum, London, and the MRAC, Tervuren, Belgium. For more information see John Mack, Emil Torday and the Art of the Congo 1900-1909 (British Museum Press, 1990). For some of Torday’s own photographs and an article see here. Torday collected the panel below which is now in the British Museum (Af1979,01.2675.)


Friday, 11 November 2011

New book: “Mama Casset”


“African Studio: The photographs of Mama Casset (1908-1992) reflect a privileged moment for Senegal. They capture a bourgeoisie still distinguished by showy splendour where each detail was a mark of elegance…..”

Click the back cover below to read on.



Wonderful photos – Available now from www.revuenoire.com

Monday, 7 November 2011

Blue Notes

If today people associate African fabrics with the bright colours of wax prints, lace, and kente,  as recently as the 1960s indigo blue cloths were ubiquitous throughout much of West Africa.  Indigo still dominates the stacked piles of vintage fabrics in my shop and still underlies many later developments in local textile design. Yet only a few quite isolated pockets of natural indigo production and use still remain in remote regions in West Africa itself. The personal journey of discovery that led her to investigate some of those often elusive surviving traces forms the subject of Catherine E. McKinley’s recent book Indigo: in Search of the Color that Seduced the World (Bloomsbury, 2011).


Catherine was the first person to buy a cloth from my first website back in the mid 1990s so we have been talking about indigo and I have been waiting to see this book for a long time. For me it captures both the rewards and the occasional frustrations of a long engagement with West Africa and its people as much as its textile traditions. A blend of social history, ethnography, travel, personal encounter and autobiography in a mix that is at times lyrical, at times less comfortable, it is a fine book that adds something unusual and distinctive to the literature on Africa’s textile history.

Also well worth noting for anyone interested in indigo is this new documentary film, available on DVD - Blue Alchemy: Stories of Indigo (www.newdealfilms.com) . If Catherine’s book draws our attention to the decline in indigo traditions in Africa, this beautiful film, directed by Mary Lance, looks at current attempts to revive indigo use and maintain important traditions both in Nigeria and in many other parts of the world.