Sand and Silk
Textiles from Africa
Despite historical, trade and migratory links between South Asia and Africa, the land mass of Africa remains an intriguing continent. Its deep rooted sense of self, vividly expressed in its textile arts, encompasses widely differing materials, techniques, patterns and usage that continue until the present day.
The contrast of colour in traditional handcrafted African textiles, the stark simplicity of motifs and the nature of materials used, whilst markedly different from our traditions, offer us a window on a world that is both unique and compelling. As nomadic groups move across territories they have criss crossed for generations, their migration is surrounded and protected by cosmic and talismanic symbols woven, printed or embroidered on their textiles. The use of symbols provides protection, prosperity and power; virility and fertility; happiness, joy and love; and the prospect of a safe journey from the material world to the world of the spirit.
The skill and creativity of African peoples from different regions are presented here highlighting techniques that include strip weaving, cut pile raphia embroidery, tie and dye, stitched resist work, bead work, shell decoration and embroidered textiles, all dating from the early to the mid-twentieth century. They have been drawn from the collection of John Gillow, an internationally known author, curator and collector of textiles who has written a number of books on the subject.
The exhibition is an attempt to foster awareness of an art form, a world apart from our everyday consciousness, yet one with which our own textile traditions have distinct affinities. The peoples of the Indus and the peoples of the Nile, two of the greatest civilisations of the ancient world, use elements from their landscape along with indigenous materials to adorn themselves and their habitat.
Monograph accompanying the exhibition available for sale at the Museum bookshop