Friday, 25 January 2013

Interesting new book on Nigerian dress traditions…



Published in Nigeria in 2011 but new to me this is a substantial (600 + pages) volume that explores dress traditions across numerous ethnic groups in Nigeria in considerable detail. The author Dani Lyndersay, a theatre studies expert, lived in Nigeria for many years and has a Phd from the University of Ibadan. She draws on both her own field and archive research and a pretty thorough overview of the literature illustrated by numerous line drawings. These drawings are in may cases quite detailed and make up for the limited and rather poorly reproduced photographs (often a problem with books published in Nigeria.) There is much new and interesting information here – 28 pages on the dress of the Kanuri, for example.

The book is not listed on Amazon but I did find it at an online seller here. I bought my copy at SOAS bookshop in London, who no doubt could obtain more.

Monday, 21 January 2013

An Ewe chief, Togo, circa 1920


The same chief wearing the same cloth in a different photograph may be seen in Venice Lamb’s book “West African Weaving” (1980). At the moment we have a particularly fine example of the style of cloth he is wearing, with weft-faced blocks alternating along each strip of cloth with supplementary weft float motifs.


More details and a wider selection of Ewe cloths here.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Coiffure de jeune femme de Say, circa 1930s


Studio portrait, Mauretania.


Caption “Pullo debbo, Muritani” – Fulani woman, Mauretania.

from “Fulanitube” on Facebook.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Cloth of the month: an unique Ewe related textile.


Ewe646 - Unique nineteenth century cloth collected in the Ewe speaking region on the Ghana/ Togo border. No other examples of this style of cloth are known as yet, but we can see affinities to the Ewe tradition, and to several other cloths shown at the moment on the Ewe gallery - notably the use of a distinct red cotton border strip at the lower edge, and the narrow weft faced bands that precede the fringe at each end.


Other aspects of the decoration though are not known from any other Ewe textiles - red thread is used to weave triangular shaped weft inserts, mainly in groups of three, at irregular intervals throughout the cloth, in an unusually minimal application of a tapestry weave effect that has been used more extensively to create a kind of zigzag patterning all over cloths decorated in a style Ewe weavers call "Danhume".


Even more oddly there are threads of red, blue, or red and blue in combination, inserted as supplementary wefts, again mainly in groups of three, that are allowed to hang loosely from the front of the fabric. Most of these inserts are at the centre of a cloth strip, some are at the edge. The white and blue threads are handspun cotton. Altogether a very interesting cloth. However there are serious condition issues with the piece - it has quite a number of mostly faint stains as shown, and a few small holes which have been patched on the reverse face by a professional conservator. The price reflects these condition issues. Measurements: 93ins x 62, 236cm x 157.

Click on the photos to enlarge. More details on our Ewe gallery here.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Negotiation of the Secret Society Cloth: An Exploration of Ukara–forthcoming exhibition.


Ukara is an indigo dyed cloth used by members of the Ekpe secret society in the Cross River area of  Southeastern Nigeria, West Africa.  The cloth includes graphic signs known as nsibidi. Negotiation of the Secret Society Cloth is an exhibition exploring the history, variety of design patterns, process of creation, and the various uses based on research conducted by  Eli Bentor over the last twenty-two years.

This exhibition is presented in dialog with contemporary artist Victor Ekpuk who incorporates nsibidi designs in his work.

Exhibition begins: Friday, April 5, 2013

Exhibition ends: Saturday, August 3, 2013

Venue: Gallery A and Mayer Gallery, Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, Appalachian State University.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Family portrait, Mali(?), circa 1920s


Not a great piece of photography or printing but I love this family group portrait postcard I just received today. Photographer and location are unknown but I would guess Mali or Guinea around 1920. What can be seen of the pattern on the blanket hung as a backdrop is quite unusual. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Cloths with mobile phone motifs…


Ewe cloth with mobile phone motifs, woven by Chapuchi Bobbo Ahiagble.





Thanks to Deborah Stokes and Chapuchi Bobbo Ahiagble for the images from Facebook.

Seeing these prompted me to look again at the cloth below, collected in Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso in 2005, and the work of a Bwa weaver. This is the oldest cloth I have seen with a phone motif.



Saturday, 12 January 2013

Wodaabe–“nomads who cultivate beauty”


Photo taken from the book “Nomads who cultivate beauty” by Mette Bovin (Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2001) in my view the most interesting of many books on the Wodaabe nomads of Niger. Bovon notes that this picture was taken in 1975 by a local photographer Yacoubou in Diffa. She noted – ‘Young men nowadays laugh when they see this photo, and comment “How old-fashioned they look, the mirrors are too big and hanging too low. Our fashion today is much smarter, more chic. But look, all three men’s faces are pretty.”’

Friday, 11 January 2013

A fine Wodaabe ceremonial tunic, Niger


Superb ceremonial tunic from the Wodaabe people of Niger. The Wodaabe are a nomadic cattle herding branch of the Fulani (or in French, Peul) people who are widely distributed across the Sahel of West Africa. The Wodaabe are well known for their spectacular annual ceremonies in which young men wearing thick face makeup dance in a row displaying their beauty to admiring women from the rival clan. These tunics are open-sided and worn over a plain leather wrapped skirt. More recent examples are usually made from cheaper imported cloth and embroidered in harsher colours, but this piece, dating from around 1960-70 is a great exemplar of a style that is now becoming very hard to collect. The designs, which include motifs alluding to aspects of nomadic life such as the layout of camps, are hand embroidered on a strip woven cloth ground. On this piece it is made up of the most expensive and most prestigious strip cloth - very narrow width strips woven by Hausa weavers in the vicinity of Kano in Nigeria specifically for sale to the desert peoples to their north such as the Tuareg and Wodaabe. A distinctive feature of this tunic is the central red stripe embroidered with a different design. Condition excellent. Measurement: 17 inches (plus 18 "sleeves") x 52 inches, 44 cm (plus 46 "sleeves")x 133 cm.



Click photos to enlarge. More information on our gallery here.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

More Ewe cloths online…





Click on the photos to enlarge. For details and the full selection please visit our online gallery here

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Yoruba sculptures of weavers



Berlin yoruba


Depictions of weaving, or indeed of other artistry, in African sculpture are quite unusual, and these are the only two Yoruba examples that I know. Both objects are opon ifa, small bowls approximately 10 inches high, that were used by a Yoruba ifa diviner or babalawo as a prestige receptacle for the sixteen palm nuts he cast in reaching a divination. The male strip weaver was shown in a gallery advert in African Arts magazine in the early 1970s and its present location is unknown, the woman weaving on the single heddle loom is in the Ethnographic Museum in Berlin.