Textiles are an important part of traditional African culture. They have a long and complex history. Their use ranges from simply clothing to something a person wears to celebrate a special event in their life. The art of making African fabrics requires a lot of skill because it is quite a long process.
MATERIALS FOR THE CLOTH
The first part of this process is to get the material for the cloth. This cloth can be made from animal hairs and fibres such as silk and raffia. These materials are very easily found in sub-saharan African countries. They are also organic and environmentally friendly because materials such as fibres and cotton do not require chemicals to be grown.
The second part of making textiles is weaving the cloth, which is traditionally done by hand. In large textile production, the looms are electric and do not require the same level of skill as a hand held one. A loom is used to weave the fabric. The weaving takes place once the fibres have been turned into threads. Some of the threads are then held by the loom whilst someone weaves the other threads.
Once the fabric has been made, then it can be dyed into different colours, using plants. The materials used to dye the fabrics include leaves and tree bark. With the example of the Bogolan Cloth, it is dyed in boiled leaves and left to dry in the sun.
The designs on the fabric depend on the purpose of the cloth. Cloth can be worn for many different reasons: it serves as a reminder for a special event like a wedding, or to tell a story. The designs can be done in many ways, depending on purpose and region. For example, the Asante of Ghana use stamps which they make out of shells but robes from Northern Nigeria are embroidered on.
The great thing about the traditional process of making these textiles is that it is both good to the environment and affordable. It is still important to know how the textiles come about because of their cultural significance. By understanding the way the fabrics are made, it is then possible to make them yourself or at least, have a bigger appreciation for African textiles when you next see an example of it.