Celebrating Black History Month Through African Fabric

As we celebrate Black History Month and the invaluable contributions of both African and African-Americans in areas of technology, entertainment, science, mathematics and the arts, we are reminded of their traditional roots in African textiles as well. From their colorful kente cloth from Ghana, bògòlanfini (mudcloth), and richly colored adire (indigo fabrics) from Mali, to their African lace of Nigeria, East African Kitenge and Egyptian cotton, African fabrics were hand-woven, painted, and dyed in tradition and meaning that sustains itself today. As well, we celebrate the symbolic Adinkra symbols of West Africa, storytelling wovens of Ghana, and abstract geometric shapes of the continent itself that can be found on printed cottons in many fabric stores and infused into the latest fashions.

Joyous African Fabrics at J and O!

Part of the rich cultural history of Africa is reflected in the traditional textiles of the continent. As in so many other parts of the world, the textiles of Africa abound with meanings and associations, as do the finished products made with them.

On a recent trip I made to the gorgeous South African city of Cape Town, I saw first hand the variety of colors and textures available in African fabrics. Certain traditional textiles have become virtually pan-African, as many of the fabrics sold in the famous Green Market off Long Street are in fact from Nigeria. The textiles -sold either on their own or as finished garments- evinced beautiful geometric patterns and vibrant colors.