African Textiles

The earliest surviving sub-Saharan African textiles are cloth fragments and parchment fragments that date to the ninth century BC from sites at Igbo Ukwu of the Igbo people of Nigeria. Some twelfth century cloth fragments date from the Tellem caves in Mali. Surviving thirteenth century samples originate from Benin City in Nigeria.

African textiles are a part of African cultural heritage that came to America along with the slave trade. As many slaves were skilled in the weaving, this skill was used as another form of income for the slave owner.

In most of Africa the weavers were men while the women spun the thread. The weavers in many of the countries were part of a caste-like group and sometimes slaves to noble families. In Yoruba compounds were used where master weavers would teach all the boys weaving and all the girls would learn to spin and dye the yarn. And children did some jobs too, like providing fabric and also weaved at a very young age of 4.

Some examples of African textiles are:

  • Aso oke fabric - woven by Yoruba people
  • Adire- tie-dye produced by Yoruba people
  • Kente cloth - woven by Ashanti and Ewe people
  • Barkcloth - produced by the Buganda tribe
  • Mudcloth- produced by the Bambara tribe
  • Kitenge - produced from Kenya and other regions of East Africa

Read more about African TextilesCultural Significance

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African Textiles - Cultural Significance
... Textiles were also used as a form of identity with each tribe having their own unique patterns which also made it easy to spot outsiders ... Weaving and the textiles were and still are very important to the African culture ... The textiles included both men and women and the cloth they made was unique to their tribe through the patterns and spiritual meanings behind them ...

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