A window into Africa

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

by Lisa Graves, World Cultures curator

The exhibition Fabric Africa: Stories told through textiles has been over a year in the planning and on 30 June it will open to the public at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

For me, the textiles have always been a window into the huge variety and diversity of countries, people and ways of looking at the world that Africa can offer.

An image of a African shirt

Each item of clothing or individual cloth can tell many stories. So it was obvious that this exhibition should focus on highlighting rather than trying to explore everything this vast subject has to offer.

The selection I made was based on trying to get the widest geographical range of countries as possible, based on what our collections could offer.

There is a bias towards sub-Saharan countries, and those in West Africa in particular, but in the future it would be great to add to our holdings from countries such as Somalia, Egypt or Ethiopia.

We have recently acquired contemporary textiles from Kenya, and for this exhibition have been lucky enough to loan not one, but two wedding dresses from a local Kenyan-born designer, Audrey Migot.

Through a call out on social media, we made contact with Audrey and three other individuals who were happy to share their thoughts on African textiles.

Pictured above: Grace Ekall, Emmanuel Adukwu and Mohamed Djama Hassan.

We have recorded their reactions to each of the exhibition themes – Status, Communication, Exchange and Fashion – which you’ll be able to listen to in the gallery.

An image of African fashion

We hope to encourage more people to share their personal stories around working with, owning, making or wearing textiles from Africa through more social media call-outs on Twitter and Instagram in the coming months.

Throughout the duration of the exhibition we have planned a series of events. These include a practical day school for adults, a children’s Arts Award workshop, as well as one aimed at Brownies, Guides, Cubs and Scouts groups and other family events for Black History Month in October and November.

One of these will be a fashion show showcasing the work of local African and African Diaspora designers and students. We hope to be running a design competition associated with this event taking inspiration from the pieces in the exhibition as well as from the vibrant contemporary fashion scenes Africa has to offer.

Find out more about Fabric Africa: Stories told through textiles.

Featured image: Audrey Migot in her wedding dress.

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