January 22, 2011
This is one of my favourite quilts. I sewed it some years ago using African fabrics only. It is rather small (1m x 80 cm) and it is made with scraps of materials from various countries in West and Central Africa. A long road along the markets of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Congo.Most of its patterns are symbolic. These simple cotton fabrics are textile words. Those who know their language can read the social status, the affiliation to a particular brotherhood, culture or the area the materials were designed in and on what particular occasion.
This pattern was printed on a traditional African dress called boubou. I was told it represented jewelry (earring ?). The name of this piece of material is : “My husband is rich”. Obviously !
I could not find the designation for all patterns but thanks to a wonderful book (at the end of this post) there are a few I can share with you.
Women grinding millet, a daily work in African villages.
Warriors´ signs. On the left there is “The Brave´s Belt” (ce farin jala). A symbol of the belt a soldier or a warrior wears around his waist before setting off for battle. On the right, a mask or a shield.
“Of threads and words” could be the translation for this wonderful book featuring many precious pieces of clothing belonging to kings, heads of tribes, clans or areas of various cultures in West and Central Africa. Sometimes symbols have been sewed or weaved on bark or raffia clothing. These unique pieces have been also represented on more common sorts of materials. As on the cotton fabrics I collected here and there.
What I cannot share with you here is the soft touch of the local cotton. A lot of materials I used have been worn, washed on stones along a river or in a pond, then dried in the hot sun. The original colours have vanished a little but the cotton texture has sometimes become as soft as silk or muslin. So pleasant to sew and quilt !