African Quilt Patterns
Textile traditions of the Africans are not as well known as their traditions and customs. This is because the historians focused on the documentation of other aspects of the African American culture like music, folk art and dialects. However, whatever little is known can be traced back to the influence of four civilizations that belonged to West and Central Africa. The civilizations are Mande-speaking people found in Mali, Guinea, Senegal and Burkino Faso, the Fon and Yoruba people found in the republic of Nigeria and Benin, the Ejagham people in Cameroon and Nigerian and the people of Kongo in Angola and Zaire. With the trading of slaves their textiles were also traded on a large scale throughout Central America, Caribbean and Southern United States. So till African American quilting became a distinct tradition, it was already a mix of various textile traditions. Originally men made most of the textiles in Africa but because of the slave trading they were not able to uphold the tradition of quilt making. Due to this, the tradition was taken over by women. Most of the African quilt patterns represent an important part of the African tradition. For instance, in Africa it was very necessary to recognize people who came from far because it served as an important warning for the tribes and due to this the textile tradition of using bright colors and large shapes was adopted.
The ability of changing and recreating African quilt patterns was of huge importance to various African tribes. If there was a break in pattern then it meant rebirth in the ancestral power of the wearer or the creator. Break in the African quilt pattern also helped in keeping away evil spirits. It is believed in Africa that evils travel in a straight line and if there is a break in the line or pattern then it will bring confusion to the spirits and will slow them down. This tradition is recognized highly in African improvisation of the European American patterns. The Diamond pattern is one of the most used African quilt patterns in the textile tradition. To Africans diamonds are a symbol of the cycle of life. Each point of the diamond represents a stage in life like, life, birth, death and rebirth.