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British Museum exhibits African textile traditions
15
Feb '13
courtesy: British Museum
courtesy: British Museum
The British Museum has opened an exhibition on ‘African textiles today’, focusing on textiles of southern and eastern Africa.
 
African printed and factory-woven textiles have changed with the changing times, fashions and tastes. The textiles include kanga from Kenya and Tanzania, capulana from Mozambique, and shweshwe from southern Africa.
 
The exhibition takes a fresh look at the history, manufacture and continuing social significance of these textiles, the designs of which depict the convergence of African tastes and patronage with strong historical and contemporary trading ties from across the globe.
 
The textiles provide a detailed chronology of the social, political, religious, emotional and sexual concerns of the people, mainly women, who wear them.
 
Their patterns and inscriptions also vary according to the age of the wearer and the context in which the cloth is worn. 
 
It would not be wrong to say that these textiles act as an unspoken language 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 women’s and, in some cases, men’s lives.
 
The cultural and social significance of these textiles have also influenced some of the region’s foremost contemporary artists and photographers, including Georgia Papageorge, Karel Nel, Peterson Kamwathi and Araminta de Clermont.
 
The exhibition, scheduled to go on till April 21, 2013, is an attempt at contributing to the small but steadily growing body of research into the relatively neglected African textile traditions.
 

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