Social Fabric: African Textiles Today explores the history, manufacture and social significance of African printed and factory-woven textiles. The designs mirror the convergence of African tastes and patronage with strong historical and contemporary trading ties from across the globe. These textiles have also influenced some of the region’s foremost contemporary artists and photographers.
The exhibition includes examples from eastern and southern Africa including kanga from Kenya and Tanzania, capulana from Mozambique, and shweshwe from southern Africa. These cloths have the ability to mirror changing times, fashions and tastes. They provide a detailed chronology of the social, political, religious, emotional and sexual concerns of the (mainly) women who wear them. Their patterns and inscriptions vary according to the age of the wearer and the context in which the cloth is worn. Their unspoken language may also be used 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.
On Wednesday 22 July from 1 to 2pm, British Museum curator Dr Chris Spring will be giving a free lunchtime talk about the history and significance of the distinctive factory-woven and printed textile traditions of eastern and southern Africa, the patterns of global trade they reveal and the ways in which they have influenced some of the region’s foremost contemporary artists and photographers. Tickets for the talk, Kanga, Capulana and Shweshe: textiles of eastern and southern Africa, can be obtained online, by phone or at RAMM’s Garden reception.
Social Fabric: African Textiles Today is a British Museum touring exhibition supplemented with extra material from RAMM’s collections.
Image: Barack Obama kanga, printed cotton, Kenya 2008. Tremendous celebrations greeted the news in Kenya, his father’s homeland, of Barack Obama’s election as 44th President of the United States. The inscriptions in Kiswahili read: ‘Congratulations Barack Obama. God has granted us Love and Peace’.
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The Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) is one of Exeter City Council’s flagship services. RAMM is also supported using public funding by Arts Council England.
Stunning displays reveal Devon and Exeter’s rich history and global connections. Exotic animals, birds and insects delight children and a changing programme of exhibitions and events means there is likely to be something different to see on every visit. Free entry gives everyone the freedom to visit many times and to stay any length of time.
Awards and standards include Museum of the Year 2012, the Arts Council Designation Scheme, Devon Visitor Attraction of the Year 2012, Collections Trust Best Practice Award 2013, RIBA South West Special Award for Conservation and Building of the Year 2013, the Accreditation Scheme for Museums in the United Kingdom, Inspiring Learning for All, 2012 Silver Tourist Attraction Award in the South West and Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2014.
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