By Ogova Ondego
Published May 30, 2015
A four-month art exhibition of African printed and factory-woven textiles has opened in Exeter, England.
The show–Social Fabric: African Textiles Today–is likely to delight behavioural, CulturalÂ and cross-cultural practitioners, development workers, communication experts, historians, journalists, students and photographers as it will anthropologists, sociologists, theologians, philosophers, political scientists, artists, designers and, indeed, any lover of anything ‘African’: it provides a detailed chronology of the social, political, religious, emotional and sexual concerns of the wearer of African printed and factory-woven textiles besides exploring the history, manufacture and social significance of these textiles!
Saying the designs “mirror the convergence of African tastes and patronage with strong historical and contemporary trading ties from across the globe”, the organisers of the expo currently running in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMMuseum) on Queen Street, Exeter, Devon, EX4 3RX, UK, say the “textiles have also influenced some of the regionâ€™s foremost contemporary artists and photographers.”
The exhibition includes examples from eastern and southern Africa–kanga from Kenya and Tanzania, capulana from Mozambique, and shweshwe from southern Africa.
“These cloths,” RAMMuseum says, “have the ability to mirror changing times, fashions and tastes. They provide a detailed chronology of the social, political, religious, emotional and sexual concerns of the (mainly) women who wear them. Their patterns and inscriptions vary according to the age of the wearer and the context in which the cloth is worn. Their unspoken language may be used to suggest thoughts and feelings which cannot be spoken. They are worn in secular and sacred contexts and play a central role in all of the major rite-of-passage ceremonies in womenâ€™s and, in some cases, menâ€™s lives.”
The show, that opened at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery on May 23, runs daily except Mondays from 10am to 5pm. Admission is free. The exhibition ends on September 6, 2015.