WEST AFRICAN TEXTILES
West Africa, stretching southwest from Mauritania to Sierra Leone and then eastwards along the Bright of Benin to the Nigerian border with Cameroon, is, in many respects, the heartland of African textile production. Cotton is the main textile. African textiles have had and still have an exceptional significance as a means of communication. There is a spiritual and historical significance in the choice of colors, dyes and in the decorative elements; the symbols used and the figural compositions which are directly related to historical proverbs and events.
The unique characteristics of our fabrics, which are all handwoven, include knots and irregularities which should not be considered flaws. Produced in line with ancestral techniques, each item is a cultural expression of the relevance and vibrancy of the African continent.
All our fabrics are hand-woven using artisanal looms following longstanding cultural traditions and ancestral production techniques. Most of our fabrics are made with dyed or natural cotton yarn. We work with a social enterprise specialised in producing hand-woven textiles from Burkina Faso and Mali. In Ghana we work with several independent weavers who are revered for their craftsmanship.
In order to achieve our objective, to provide work opportunities for marginalized communities we have partnered with the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) a flagship program of the International Trade Centre (a joint agency of the United Nations and World Trade Organization). The Initiative aims to reduce global poverty by connecting micro- entrepreneurs from the developing world with the international fashion industry. Under its slogan,“NOT CHARTY, JUST WORK.”
BOGOLAN - MALI
Another traditional West African cloth is bogolanfani, the so-called “mud cloth” from Mali. Made by the Bamana women to the north of the Bamako region. The cloth is made out of Basilan cotton fabric dyed with fermented mud. The abstract design is painted on with a darker shade of fermented mud. Bogolanfini is a living art form with techniques and motifs passed down from generations of mothers to daughters; each piece of mudcloth tells a story. No two pieces are alike and each pattern and color combination has a meaning.
KENTE - GHANA
Richly woven kente cloth is among the most famous woven cloths of Africa. It originated with the Ashanti people of Ghana in the seventeenth century. The Ashanti were the dominant people of West Africa’s Gold Coast. The Ashanti only use geometric non-figurative motifs in their weaving, whereas the Ewe tribes from south-east Ghana, weave floating motifs on their cloths. Whatever, the region though, kente cloth was originally woven solely for chiefs, the special cloth became a document of the history of the people.
According to legend two brothers from the village called Bonwire went hunting one afternoon and came across a spider spinning a web. They were amazed by the beauty of the web and thought that they could create something like it. Upon returning home, they made the first cloth out of black and white fibers from a raphia palm tree.
Kente has evolved a great deal since it was first produced but it’s beauty remains the same. The brilliantly colorful fabric is entirely hand-woven by Ghanaian weavers to this date.
FASO DAN FANI - BURKINA FASO
Burkina Faso’s textile heritage lies in its creations of Faso Dan Fani, meaning “woven cloth of the homeland”. Burkina Faso is one of the main producers of organic cotton in the world, the cotton is spun into yarn and dyed by women artisans. Then the yarn is spun into thread which is hand-woven into a cotton fabric using a loom. The national cloth usually has a striped or tartan design.