Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Kente Cloth Sale

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We are having a summer sale of kente cloths from a British private collection assembled in the early 1990s. Click here to see the sale.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Sierra Leone Textiles–the Alldridge Collection in Brighton Museum–part two

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery houses more than 100 objects from Sierra Leone purchased in 1899 from Thomas Joshua Alldridge (1947-1916). Alldridge was in Sierra Leone for extended periods between 1871 and 1905,  served as District Commissioner for Sherbro district between 1894 and 1905, travelled extensively throughout much of the country. Among the collection at Brighton are a small but important group of textiles. Sierra Leone textiles are extremely rare and the early dating and provenance makes this perhaps the second ranking group worldwide after those at the British Museum. The accession notes attribute all of them to “Mendiland”, indicating that the weavers were Mende, but given that Alldridge did travel widely in the area over a number of years the possibility that some came from other ethnic groups can not be rules out.

None of the cloths are currently on display but last month I was able to view them with the kind assistance of curators Helen Mears and Martin Pel. Due to the size of the cloths it was not possible to take full view photographs but I was able to get detail pictures that are worth sharing. The three textiles shown here are all display hangings, long and elaborate cloths that would have served as a backdrop for important village events and enhanced the status of the family and chieftaincy that owned them. All three owe a debt to historical links between Mali and Sierra Leone, both in the underlying structure of a blue and white checkerboard layout and in the use of tapestry weave patterning. All are woven from hand spun cotton.

Reference #BMAG.R3483.110a

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Reference # BMAG.R3483.110c

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Reference # BMAG.R3483.110f

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Click on the photos to enlarge.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

New Exhibition: “African Textiles and Adornment: Selections from the Marcel and Zaira Mis Collection” at LACMA

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Brilliant color, bold patterns, and intriguing symbols characterize the dress of many societies throughout the African continent. Not only are garments visually compelling, but they are also laden with emblems of power that signify the wealth, status, prestige, or even divinity of the bearer. The body’s seat of intelligence, spirit, and identity is also established by crowning the head with spectacular structures fashioned out of feathers or beads that soar above or surround the head, increasing or expanding a subject’s stature.

Featuring over 35 dynamic textiles and commanding headdresses, this exhibition presents the profound visual impact of African textiles. Fashioned in a variety of techniques and enhanced with a broad range of natural materials, these extraordinary garments and headpieces sculpt the body into iconic form and serve as aesthetic surrogates for power and esteem.”

April 5, 2015–October 12, 2015

At: LACMA

A book on this collection was published by 5Continents a few years ago.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Cloth of the Month: An Ewe Chief’s Robe Cloth

E822

E822 - Very unusual mixed strip Ewe man's cloth with seven different strip designs and exceptionally elaborate borders. The majority of Ewe cloths don't have distinct borders (unlike Asante kente) and on those that do the designs are generally quite repetitive with only subtle variations. Here though the variants in the strip pattern and their interaction with the weft blocks provide the main visual interest in the central field but the borders themselves are markedly more complex with threefold weft blocks framing a great variety of neatly woven weft float motifs.

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This makes the borders themselves a design focus that counter balances the irregular off-beat layout of patterns within the central field.

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Condition - very good, cloth is complete, there is slight discoloration in places on some white strips, probably from decades of storage in a metal trunk. Dates from circa 1900-20s. Measurement: 107 inches x 69 ins, 272cm x 175cm PRICE: Email for price.

Click here to view this cloth on our New Acquisitions Gallery and here for our selection of Ewe cloths.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Sierra Leone Textiles–the Alldridge Collection in Brighton Museum–part one.

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery houses more than 100 objects from Sierra Leone purchased in 1899 from Thomas Joshua Alldridge (1947-1916). Alldridge was in Sierra Leone for extended periods between 1871 and 1905,  served as District Commissioner for Sherbro district between 1894 and 1905, travelled extensively throughout much of the country. Among the collection at Brighton are a small but important group of textiles. Sierra Leone textiles are extremely rare and the early dating and provenance makes this perhaps the second ranking group worldwide after those at the British Museum. The accession notes attribute all of them to “Mendiland”, indicating that the weavers were Mende, but given that Alldridge did travel widely in the area over a number of years the possibility that some came from other ethnic groups can not be rules out.

None of the cloths are currently on display but last Monday I was able to view them with the kind assistance of curators Helen Mears and Martin Pel. Due to the size of the cloths it was not possible to take full view photographs but I was able to get detail pictures that are worth sharing. In todays post I will focus on the most spectacular of the group, a cloth that Venice Lamb in her book Sierra Leone Weaving calls “one of the greatest of all West African cloths.” She publishes a full view in black and white, shown below, and for reasons that are not clear to me from the text, attributes it to a weaver of the Vai ethnic group. Its accession number is R3483.110h.

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Click on the photos to enlarge. The cloth measures 12 foot x 4 foot 7inches (365cm x 104  ) and is woven entirely from hand spun cotton in white, indigo and brown (kola nut dye ?). It is notably for the densely worked and incredibly varied blocks of weft float patterning. It falls into the largest and most complex group of Sierra Leone cloths of a type called kpoikpoi (or kpokpo) and would have been displayed at important events rather than worn.

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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Exhibition and book: “Emblems of Power: Asafo Flags from Ghana” at the African Art Museum of the SMA Fathers

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On now and through May at the African Art Museum of the SMA Fathers, Tenafly, New Jersey, the exhibition shows the Asafo flag collection of Mary and Paul Rosen and includes two very fine long banners. It is accompanied by a 100 page catalogue by Mary and Paul Rosen that features their photographs of Asafo posuban shrines and is a useful addition to the small group of books on the topic. Price for the catalogue is US$20 plus postage and it is available from Paul Rosen at ppr2001@med.cornell.edu .

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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Cloth of the month: A fine natural dyed Hausa blanket.

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AS523 - Fine Hausa blanket collected before World War II. Although cloths such as this were doubtless once widely available in the north of Nigeria few examples from this period have survived and they are not well represented in museum collections. Unlike more common examples from the 1960s it is woven from hand spun cotton throughout (by the 1960s weavers were using machine spun cotton for the warp) and the tapestry weave inserts are dyed with natural dyes. This cloth was unused when collected and is in very good condition, dates from the 1930s. Measurement: 97 inches x 57 ins, 246cm x 146cm

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Click on the photos to enlarge. To see this cloth on our galley click here.

We have just acquired a group of more recent Hausa blankets from the 1960s that will be posted on the gallery in the coming weeks.