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MSU Museum Exhibit explores West African Textile Traditions

26
Dec '08
African art has never been frozen in time -- it is always changing. West Africa is the heartland of African textile production, and like other African art, the textiles made in this region have been transformed and refigured over time. That creative wellspring is the inspiration for a new exhibition at the Michigan State University (MSU) Museum, "Threads of Change: The Transformation of West African Textiles," opening January 18, 2009.

From the Kente cloth of Ghana and mud cloth of Mali, to the indigo Adire cloth of Nigeria and printed cottons of Guinea tradition and innovation are evident. The availability and use of new technologies and materials, the exposure to new design sources, changes in religious and cultural traditions, the ingenuity of individual artists, and commercial global market forces have all influenced the design, color, meaning, and function of West African textiles. This new MSU Museum exhibition includes examples of cloths that illustrate some of these changes.

"While mud cloth for traditional use is painted in great symbolic detail, commercial works are produced quickly with pleasing designs and, often, western markets in mind," notes educator and guest curator Chris Worland. "Fine artists from Mali using traditional vegetable dyes with original designs now exhibit their mud cloth in contemporary art galleries in Europe and the United States."

Many of the textiles in this exhibition were donated to the MSU Museum by MSU faculty who represent a range of specialties in African studies and who collected the textiles while traveling, working, and living in West Africa. The textiles thus also serve as documents of the breadth and longevity of the university's engagement in West Africa. Adds Worland: "African art belongs to the past and to the present, and 'Threads of Change' provides a unique opportunity to view magnificent artistry of both the past and the present."

"This exhibition is intended to help viewers gain an understanding of the skills required to make this art and the historical and cultural contexts in which that art has been made." "Threads of Change: The Transformation of West African Textiles" runs in the MSU Museum's Main Gallery through Aug. 20, 2009. This exhibition is made possible by project partners at Michigan State University: African Studies Center, Center for Advanced Study of International Development, MSU Museum, Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives (Creating Inclusive Excellence Grant), and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities.

Special programs include an opening reception on MSU's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Commemorative Celebration, Monday, Jan. 19, 3:30 - 6 p.m. in the Main Gallery, with a meet-the-curator gallery tour. Other programs include a gallery talk and demonstrations by Groupe Bogolan Kasobane, on Sunday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.; and a "Stamp, Paint, Cut" fabric workshop for children on Saturday, March 31, 1-3 p.m.; and anEast Lansing Public Library Book Club meeting exploring "Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali," by Kris Holloway," at the MSU Museum on Wednesday, March 25, 7-9 p.m. Additional programs are planned in conjunction with the MSU Residential College in the Arts and Humanities. Check museum.msu.edu for more details.


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