rich textiles

African Textiles....Real Ones

One of the benefits of living and working at the the Nike Centers For Art and Culture is that I get a chance to document her incredibly extensive textile collection.  The collection includes Nigerian Textiles (mostly from the Yoruba kingdoms), Raffia cloths from the Kuba federation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Malian “Bogolanfini” Mud cloths and even one beautiful example of of a Ghanaian Kente cloth.  The Yoruba made textiles are by far the most extensive part of the collection and include cloths made on both the Women’s (vertical) and Men’s (horizontal, narrow strip) looms. The collection also includes a huge variety Adire (tie and dye and starch resist ) cloths executed on both handwoven and machine woven cloths.  The woven textiles include antique textiles woven with hand spun cotton threads, dyed with natural dyes (Mostly indigo with some some camwood dyed warp sections). They also include “Sanyan” textiles woven with the once illustrious beige wild silk collected from the indigenous anaphe moth, as well as textiles woven with imported silks from Asia and synthetic and machine spun cotton, rayon and polyester threads from Europe, Asia and the Americas. There were Indigo robes, shirts, trousers, wrappers and hats. The textiles beauty is only surpassed by their diversity. The pieces are testaments to tradition as well as ingenuity and creativity. There are clothes that could have easily been worn in the ancient courts of Ile Ife and the Ogiso era Benin Kingdom and others that  take ancient motifs and execute  them with brilliant synthetic or metallic threads, sometimes sewn together with imported textiles to create beautiful and unique pieces speaking to the individuality of the weavers. I began to respect the creators not only as traditional craftsmen, but as contemporary textile artists, working from an African aesthetic tradition. 

Below: Examples of textiles using hand spun, hand dyed silk (Sanyan) and cotton threads, as well as machine spun imported threads in imitation of natural dyed threads. The colors and patters used in the AsoOke (Narrow strip cloths) are similar to those created since at least the 16th century, While the striped indigo Women’s loom AsoOfi echo back to cloths made in southern Nigeria dating back the 9th century.  

Below are examples of Adire textiles. The top two are representative of the Adire Eleko ( Cassava Starch Resist) techniques developed by Yoruba Women in the early 20th century. Below them are Examples of Adire Oniko (Tie and Dyed) on Kijipa (Hand woven cotton cloth using hand spun threads on a Women’s vertical loom). The textiles make use of the “Eleso/fruits” and “Osupa/moon” patterns. Textiles such as these were made as far back as the 11th century.

Below are some example of Chief Nike Okundaye’s extensive Raffia Textile collection.

A minimalist example of Malian Bogolanfini “Mudcloth”

A more contemporary handwoven Dashiki made using handwoven AsoOke “stripwoven” Fabric and machine embroidery. The basic style in format though is quite old.

A unique cloth that incorporates machine woven Damask fabric with hand woven AsoOke, utilizing “Jawu/openwork” and metallic threads.

Being immersed in this tradition made me think about the perception African textiles in the Americas. For so many Dutch, Indian or Chinese made printed textiles have become synonymous with African cloths. These wax prints although an important part of contemporary African Identity often undercut the rich local handmade textile traditions of west and central Africa. The ancestral resist dyeing and weaving traditions that link Africa with diaspora often go unnoticed in favor of the printed textiles, as do important avenues of mutual exchange and economic development of African creative markets. The “invasion” of these foreign textiles is so absolute that they have almost completely replaced the once vibrant raffia weaving tradition of central Africa, which at one time was producing tens thousands of yards of domestic and luxury textiles. These “Wax Print” textiles were originally created by the Dutch to sell in Indonesian markets were often made to specifically imitate the Batik patterns and motifs of southeast Asia. When it was discovered that these cloths sold far better in African markets they  began exporting them across the continent. Although these early 20th century Africans loved these brightly colored “new "textiles, their patterns and colorways held little to no significance to the preexisting textile traditions and at least in West African indigenous weaving and resist dyeing traditions continued to flourish and evolve alongside these newer imports.  For us in the Diaspora it important to understand that our ancestors would not be able to recognize brightly colored machine made textiles that we associate with Africa now. What we call a dashiki is vastly different from the ones they wore, but also very similar to those made in West Africa today by West African weavers and tailors, who maintain these vibrant traditions. The technicolor floral and kaleidoscope patterns that dominate printed textiles would have also been alien to them, but the tie and dyed patterns that are still made and used in Nigeria, Mali and Liberia would have been strikingly familiar, as they not only predate the transatlantic slave trade, but may have been practiced by the descendants of African slaves in the Americas up until the 19th century. 

Below: Pre 20th century robes: Top: Kanuri robe from the mid 19th century embroidery on imported silk. Second: Mande robe from the 17th century indigo dyed robe with tie dyed “eleso” pattern. Third: mid 19th century embroidered Dahomean robe from what is now the Republic of Benin, Strip woven fabric with embroidery. Fourth: 17th century strip woven tunic most likely from a Mande speaking region. 

The indigenous textile traditions of Africa are rich and varied, and represent both continuity and change. As we in the diaspora begin to explore African textiles it is important that we understand the roots of these traditions and the fascinating ways in which these aesthetics and traditions relate to our own textile and aesthetic traditions and how we can economically support this incredible work made by black artisans.

In Dreams 14

Chapter 1...Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9...Chapter10… Chapter 11Chapter 12Chapter 13


3:42 AM

It’s not that he expected something to happen immediately. There’s still a chalky aftertaste in his mouth and he swears he can feel the pill land in his stomach. He looks around Scully’s bathroom as if he might find some kind of sudden clarity in the ancient tiles. But there is nothing. No revelation, no sudden onslaught of memory. And the logical part of his brain reminds him not to be disappointed. It’s funny, he notes, that the logical voice in his head sounds a lot like Scully’s.

He flips the light switch and ambles back to the bedroom. She stirs as he slides between the sheets and mumbles something sleepily.

“Go back to sleep,” he whispers.

“Are you okay?” she sighs.

“I’m okay,” he tells her reaching out to smooth her hair down.

2:20 AM

He swallows the pill dry and again, looks around the bathroom. She’s got all kinds of odd little things in there. He notices a glass ashtray on one of the tables near the tub. Upon closer inspection, he sees that it is emblazoned with the seal of the US Navy. He knows it must have been her father’s, because he now remembers that her father was a Captain. But he also has an image of her, perched on the edge of her clawfoot tub, her hair short and curled at the ends the way it was when they were first partnered together. He can see her, rear balanced on the edge of the bath and the arches of her feet against the table on the opposite wall. The glass ashtray balances precariously on her bent knees as she takes a long drag from a cigarette.

“You okay?” he’d asked her.

“Coping mechanism,” she said as she held up the cigarette.

“Maybe you should have a drink to celebrate keeping your liver,” he teased.

“One vice at a time,” she said as she flicked the ash into the thick glass.

He takes a deep breath and can smell the smoke, rich and familiar. He opens his eyes and it’s gone, the image, anyway. As he turns off the light, he swears he can still smell the smoke.

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#LocalLens: Walking your Senses through Oaxaca with @fcoronado

In this series, local Instagrammers show you their favorite places to shoot around where they live. To see more photos of Oaxaca, Mexico, through Frank’s eyes, follow @fcoronado on Instagram.

(This interview was conducted in Spanish.)

“Oaxaca is color, flavor, smells and sounds. Walking through its streets you get a unique encounter with your senses,” says Frank Coronado (@fcoronado), a photographer and painter from the region in southern Mexico.

The Mexican state is known for its cultural diversity, something that Frank aims to capture. “The differences between the eight regions of Oaxaca can be found in their gastronomy, in their textile richness. Every regional costume is made in a different way with colorful threads, which weave traditions inherited throughout generations.”

Frank spent 18 years away from his hometown and was amazed with everything he rediscovered when he returned. “Many people believe that due to the fact that Oaxaca is a small city, not a lot of things happen here. But you just need to walk through its streets to realize there are endless things going on,” he says.


Print Gangstas

Vivien Leigh in African Prints

Rita Hayworth in English patterns

Katherine Hepburn in Batik Indonesia

Eartha Kitt in Persian design

Just personal work, exploring my love for these Hollywood glamazons and rich cultural textiles.

Safe In The Dark [AU]

Bent over his papers, the young prince sat in the courtyard and ignored the bustle that surrounded him. The curtilage was made up of a great square of green with a white marble fountain at the center. The glistening water gave off a comfortable coolness that was very much welcome in the heat of the summer months. The air was arid and the sun scorching. A hostile climate for most, except for the people who lived in it.

Amduscias counted to the latter group but still he needed to keep himself thoroughly covered when he stepped outside. Whenever a breeze swept through the airy corridors it was like relief to him. His form was wrapped in rich fabrics and stiff textils, adorned with the insignia of his family. Even his head he kept hidden under layers of cloth. Like this there was barely anything to see of him but the eerie brightness of his eyes.

On any other day he wouldn’t have bothered leaving the chambers during high noon but this was not any other day. The whole palace was brimming with people. Servants rushed back and forth, carrying tapestries, painted vases and other luxury goods. Even the kitchens, which usually were all but deserted during these hours, were stuffed with cooks and assistants; all of them working at full force to create new dishes, desserts and playful arrangements for the entirety of  more than three hundred guests. Even here you could hear the unwilling shrieking of the animals they were planning to slaughter and cook.

Amduscias glanced over at the two peacocks that stalked through the grass not far from him. “You guys better watch out,” He told them but his advice went unheeded. He was rather glad to be out here, really. All chambers available were assigned to one royal visitor or other. He disliked meeting new people. He disliked their stares and questions, the greedy look in one face and the alienation in another. And for all of this, the upcoming event should have filled him with dread.

But how could it have? The day after tomorrow wasn’t just some random entertainment his father hosted for prestige’s sake. It was the crown prince’s eighteenth birthday. You counted as a man at sixteen but at eighteen you were ready to take on the duties that came with manhood. Marriage, war and taxes, to name a few.

Amduscias was not the crown prince. Amduscias was not even part of the line of succession. He was well aware of that but considering the responsibilities he escaped due to it he couldn’t feel bad about it for long. Amduscias was not the child of king and queen despite his princely title which was a sign of his parents’ love more so than his status. He had been taken in as an infant, an orphan they had found on the steps to the washhouses. So he was not going to be king. But his brother was. It was Asmodeus’ party and therefore Amduscias was looking forward to it. Also because those events always offered the opportunity for a lot of unsupervised drinking and misconduct he usually wouldn’t get away with as a figure at court.

He finished another set of music notes, all of them lovingly drawn on the parchment, and set the ink down. His shoulder was already aching from the stiff position. He’d prefer stretching out in the baths right now, or in a lounge. When he reached over to pick up the next paper, his gaze fell on the shape that was sauntering towards him. He was smiling now, even if only his eyes could have shown it.

“Did you finish your dress appointment with Mother early or are you on the run?” He called out to Asmodeus.

  Arc I — The Long and Winding Road

  A fanfiction collab with sildae

  Chapter 2: With a Little Help From Senators

Word Count: 3,669
Characters: Ahsoka Tano, Padmé Amidala, Riyo Chuchi, Sabé.
<<Chapter 1 | Chapter 3>>

Although Padmé had said she’d arranged something to pique Ahsoka’s interest, she spent the rest of the time sidestepping each of Ahsoka’s attempts at guessing, which had grown fewer the more Ahsoka ate. Breakfast, beautifully arranged on the dining room table, had been spent with Ahsoka devouring her weight in reesku-omelette while Padmé steered the light conversation along neutral paths, sticking to the weather and tame Senate gossip.

Between the omelettes, the fresh Corellian fruit, and the pitcher of muju juice, Ahsoka had managed to beg for a hint only twice, but Padmé stubbornly refused, a smirk dimpling her cheeks. When Ahsoka finally sat back in her chair with a defeated sigh at the food still in front of her, Padmé rose, smoothed out her skirt, and said, “Follow me.”

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Woman in Renaissance Dress. Camillo Melnik (Austrian, b.1862).

Imported fabrics and rich textiles demonstrated wealth, but not always nobility. More than one complaint was raised against Venetian courtesans for dressing like ladies, and visitors remarked that they could not tell the courtesans from respectable women. This was because both categories of women wore similar low-cut dresses and high shoes (pianelle).

Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni de’ Medici (detail), 1544 - 1545, Agnolo Bronzino

Eleanor is depicted wearing a formal gown over a camisa or smock of linen trimmed with narrow bands of blackwork embroidery at the neck and sleeve ruffles. Bronzino’s painting captures the dimensionality of the brocaded silk velvet fabric in the gown with its loops of gold-wrapped thread and black pile arabesques against a white satin ground. Clothing made of such rich textiles was reserved for official occasions and was not typical of Eleanor’s everyday wardrobe, which featured solid-coloured gowns of velvets and satins.