West African Textiles

West African textiles are best known for its beauty blended with impeccable decoration style. The inspiration to design fabulous textiles comes from their culture and spiritual world in almost all the items Africans make. Besides textiles, they are popular for their mastery in making pendants, spoons, carved calabashes, gold weights, pottery and mud wall designs. In addition, they also make brilliant details on carved house posts or on masks. West African textiles often carry the art, rich in visual symbols. More often than not the designs included in these textiles carry meaning associated with the culture. For example, the design of a coiled snake suggests that it supports the world, but if the snake becomes uneasy, the nervous undulations can suggest earthquakes. The symbolic meaning in this example is taken from the Fon people of Benin.

Mostly, West African cloth is woven on a loom that produces a strip of about 1 to 12 inches wide. Then these strips are sewn together to make big textiles, blankets and various other clothing. Strips used to make textiles can be plain made from un-dyed homespun cotton as well as vibrant with beautiful intricate work and colors. West African textiles generally use cotton, silk both homespun or unraveled thread from oriental cloth and synthetics. These textiles often incorporate appliqué, tie-dye, painting and resist dye.

West African textiles also incorporate kuba raffia cloth appliqués and embroideries of the Congo. The social use of these textiles forms to be an important aspect of understanding their importance in the West African culture. The batik print continues to be the favorite of African designers. It is a traditional method that comes from Java, Indonesia. European traders brought this technique to Africa, in which a wax resist is applied by hand. Besides stitch and dye method is also very popular in West African textiles. It is similar to tie-dye method.

West African textiles have become one of the popular textiles in the world and several design techniques such as batik and tie-dye have been incorporated worldwide.

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