African Textiles

Posted: January 26, 2012 by lilzak in Jan 25

Geraldine Chambers
January 25, 2012

The materiality of African textile is as varied as the continent of Africa and its diaspora. I would like to look at the textiles and how it is used within diaspora on the continent and beyond its borders from the nineteenth century to the present. There is a large array of textile including Raffia, (which is not technically a textile), Mud Cloth, Wax Print, Kente and Indigo and others. I want to explore their meanings from the past and their meanings today in Africa and the diaspora. Also what they were used for and how they are used and presented in contemporary art today.
The mode of production also varies due to changes in economies of the countries where the textiles are produced. Some artist use traditional weaving techniques while others use embroidery or tie dye methods. Artist such as photographers use textiles to address issues of identity and cross-cultural discourses. There is also the use of different materials such as synthetic dyes (i.e. acrylic), natural dyes (i.e. plant). Also I want to look at the textile industries and how they produce textiles especially in South and West Africa and Africa’ relationship other countries such as China in textile production.
The designs are often based on traditional styles but contemporary artists use them differently to show changes in the cultures they inhabit be it Africa, Europe or the Caribbean. Today’s’ artist want to acknowledge their African heritage but there is a desire to move forward and produce work as artists. They want to their works to reflect the world they live in and how the cross-cultural influences speak to their works.
African textiles have also taken on different meanings in diasporic environs such as Surinam and the Caribbean where issues of identity and authenticity are constant reminders of a place no longer familiar. I want to compare old and new meanings and old and new uses for these textiles.

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