Social Fabric: African Textiles Today


I was really excited to see that this temporary exhibition happened to be on at the William Morris museum too, alongside the permanent exhibition about Morris' life and work. Apparently this is an offshoot from the West Africa: Word Symbol Song exhibition that Lynsey and I had seen at the British Library, where I was really intereseted in learning about the use of symbol in patterns printed onto cloth used to make clothes. Here in Social Fabric: African Textiles Today, it was fascinating to learn about the use of symbol and message printed onto large retangular cloths called kanga and worn by women as a scarf, wrap, top or skirt.

Most kanga are retangular, have a continuous border, a central image or pattern, and an inscription in the Kiswahili language. Messages can be: political e.g. at the time of the US elections when Obama was a candidate many kanga were printed with his image; social - one kanga we saw was printed with many women riding bicycles, campaigning for equal rights and environmentally sounds transport choices; or personal - the kanga above has the inscription "The mangoes are ripe for picking" - a cheeky wink of an invitation from a wife to her husband (and my favourite in the exhibition!)

Really interesting - well worth a visit!

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