February 2, 2012
Ownership of African textiles as are varied as Africa itself and its relationship to the rest of the world. They can be owned by individuals, groups and institutions. Groups such as the Ashanti of Ghana whose Kente cloth holds a special importance to the Ashanti and has become world renowned and other cloths are owned by institutions and individuals since the eighteenth century.
In the transnational diasporic contexts ownership comes in the works of contemporary artists such as Yinka Shonibare and fashion styles worn in the West by Africans of the diaspora. One of the changes in the use of African textiles is in spiritual and cultural meanings such as funerary and rituals such as marriage but in the West these connections are longer practiced.
African textiles have travelled due to changes in economies and major migrations throughout Africa and the world. Textiles have travelled through routes such as the Silk Road, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the Atlantic Slave Trade where slaves were sometimes exchanged for pieces of cloths and transnationally within Africa.
The research in these textiles made me see the richness of African cultures. They are very committed to excellence in craftsmanship as well as retaining the cultural and religious meanings. I also see the way they are viewed and valued in the West and how Africans of the diaspora have held on to their connection with Africa through African textiles they purchase or create themselves.
I can see how people can develop a desire for African textiles. They are extremely visually captivating and this may be because African textiles are made for aesthetic reasons. They don’t primarily dress for protection therefore; they were free to focus on beauty and meaning. It’s a luxury not only to own but to see.
Its current uses relate to its uses in the past in the strong use of colour and design that is always contemporary in feel and I thing that is why there is still such a strong interest in them today.