Syracuse University Presents ‘It’s a Wrap! West African Textile’ Exhibition

November 16, 2016 at 01:00 pm | History

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

November 16, 2016 at 01:00 pm | History

West African Textiles on display in New York. Photo Credit: Bell Africana

Syracuse University Art Galleries in New York is currently exhibiting more than 40 examples of unique textiles drawn from West African countries, including Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria. The exhibition, titled, “It’s A Wrap! West African Textiles,” aims to highlight the unique woven, stamped, appliqued, and resist-dyed techniques of designing textiles that are common in West Africa.

“The textile culture in West Africa is very old – weaving is documented at Igbo Ukwu, Nigeria, in the 9th and 10th centuries, and by the 11th century weaving flourished in Mali,” Syracuse University writes on its website.

The exhibition has been organized by Professor Michelle Gilbert from the department of Fine Arts at Trinity College in Connecticut and is partially sponsored by the Maxwell African Scholars Union in conjunction with the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs.

Traditional cloth of Mali. Photo credit: PeopleofMali

Traditional cloth of Mali. Photo credit: PeopleofMali

The exhibition features textiles borrowed from the collections of Gilbert and the Amyas Naegele and Eve Glasberg Collection in New York and will run from November 15th to December 23rd in the Shaffer Art Building in Syracuse.

Textile Culture

Like in many other parts of the world, textile plays an important role in promoting West Africa’s unique cultures. In most West African communities, textiles do more than just cover the body.

A simple textile design can communicate various messages about the wearer and their background. What a person wears and how they wear it can demonstrate their eccentric flamboyance or modest conservatism.

Adinkra cloth seller in Kumasi, Ghana. Photo credit: Flickriver

Adinkra cloth seller in Kumasi, Ghana. Photo credit: Flickriver

Traditional Burkina Faso cloth. Photo credit: Pintrest

Traditional Burkina Faso cloth. Photo credit: Pinterest

Cameroonian traditional cloth. Photo credit: Pinterest

Cameroonian traditional cloth. Photo credit: Pinterest

There are special textiles associated with the wealthy and powerful in the society and others that represent the presence of divinity.

West African Textile designs

Traditional Nigerian cloth. Photo credit: Pinterest

These textiles are used for many purposes, including as gifts, dowry, blankets, carpets, and palanquins.

Artists are able to express their feelings and display their creativity through the use of textile designs, textures, and patterns.

The exhibition, which is completely free to the public, presents an opportunity for people to experience authentic West African textile designs and understand their relevance to the community and world.

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