Social fabric: African textiles today – British Museum, April 2013

Red and white pattern (April 2013)

Patterns (April 2013)

Political kangas (April 2013)

FIFA World Cup South Africa kanga (April 2013)

Spotty blue and red kanga (April 2013)

Kanga material samples (April 2013)

I still have a few exhibitions I’m determined to share with you before the end of the year.

This lovely, highly enjoyable, and educational exhibition (I am partial to textiles) focused mostly on textiles from eastern and southern Africa. Of course, I have seen women in Africa wearing kangas. Vibrant and colourful kangas. Isn’t that one of the very images that comes to mind when you think of Africa? I had not, however, fully appreciated the crucial role kangas play in society.

The history, beliefs, politics, fashions, status and aspirations of people are communicated through the colours and patterns of textiles” (source: British Museum).

Kangas may carry political or educational messages. They are visible and are used to express thoughts and feelings which often can’t be said out loud in what is essentially a traditional society. And as such, a woman’s wardrobe will say a lot about her. ‘HUJUI KITU’ – ‘You know nothing’. This kanga would probably be worn by older women to ward off younger rivals. Women, and sometimes men, may choose to wear the same pattern and colour to show unity and friendship at events, funerals and weddings.

The early kangas were made by using carved wooden blocks on cotton sheeting. Nowadays, it is a more industrial process and kangas are cheap. It is a massive industry and it makes sense to consult women before creating new ones, or the products may not sell.

I’m very taken with the middle pattern in the last photo. Coincidentally, I came across an extremely similar wallpaper this week on Design Sponge, whilst researching materials for our bathroom project.

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I'm an inquisitive being. Everything is an adventure: art, architecture, colours, food, patterns, people... and travel! And I love elephants. That's what I mostly write about.
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