Clicking on a small photo brings you a bigger photo.
Some of the pieces are available (for exchange for instance).
The attributions of the origin of the objects is based on
their stylistic characteristics and/or on the data provided by the seller and/or
experts, but of course certainty cannot be reached.
A good book about African textiles in French:
Paris : Adam Biro, 1998, 160 pp.
Formerly worn by girls and women during important ceremonies.
Among some Cameroon groups, women simply wore pubic aprons also known as
'caches sexes’ in various writings (literally - ‘to hide the sex’) until
approximately 1961, when governmental restrictions required women to be fully
clothed. However the tradition continues in a number of ornate beaded forms worn
Living in the area of the Mandara mountains, Matakam women of northern Cameroon wore pubic aprons made of small iron strips covering the sex and held in place by a belt of fiber.
Photos of a few similar pieces are published in the famous book
Exhibition catalogue by Marc Ginzberg, with Foreword by Jack Lenor Larsen.
African Forms: The Traditional Design and Function of Objects
Paper: ISBN 88-8118-838-4
Cloth: ISBN 88-8118-735-3
"Traditional African crafts including household objects, weapons and jewellery are presented in such a way that will appeal to designers and decorators and to craft hobbyists who have interest in African traditions and cultures."
"In Africa, no clear distinction is made between art and craft, but in the West books and publications devoted exclusively to African crafts and the remarkable utilitarian objects African cultures have produced are all too rare. This work addresses these objects, which were collected and studied along with the better-known masks and figural sculptures but have been so long neglected. The author, himself a well-known collector, seeks both to heighten our artistic perceptions and to provide a better understanding of Africa by presenting these "humble" ethnic craft objects as remarkable works of form and utility. They deserve the attention-ritual and utilitarian objects have equal value as testimonies to the evolution of aesthetic sensibilities and are both tangible expressions of the symbolically charged African material cultures.
Though not truly encyclopedic, this superbly illustrated book features objects of daily life from all over Africa that bridge the material and spiritual lives of the cultures they come from. While many of these objects-which include weapons, jewelry, textiles, musical instruments, and furniture-are of relatively simple manufacture, they are often truly refined. The objects are thoroughly described and presented in this manner attain the status of true works of art."
"The first book devoted to traditional African crafts which covers all of Africa and treats an extraordinary variety of articles: household objects, weapons, jewelry, textiles, musical instruments devotional items.
A must for all the readers interested in Africa and its rich cultural heritage but also an inspirational source for designers and decorators.
Marc Ginzberg presents a wide and beautifully photographed assortment of African craftsmanship, in an original cross-cultural survey of African domestic objects organized by function."
"This show and catalogue elevate objects of daily use such as pottery, textiles, furniture, jewelry, and weapons to genuine works of art, concentrating on non-figural utilitarian objects."
The Matakam are also known as 'Kirdi' or 'pagans', a name given to them by
the Islamized Kanuri or Fulani who came into the area sometime during the 1600s.
The Matakam or Kirdi live in small farming communities and are known for their
arts of personal adornments, especially those made of iron including the 'cache
sexes,' as well as necklaces, bracelets and other attachments worn on the belt
supporting their 'aprons'. Composed of small iron strips the pubic aprons were
worn by mature married women indicating their elevated status in Kirdi society.
Beaded aprons have today replaced those of iron and are worn by women upon
special occasions such as marriage or during the presentation of new born
children. Geometric patterns found on the brightly colored beaded aprons reflect
designs shared by a number of neighboring peoples. It is an example of how
traditions are maintained in other forms and materials serving custom and
The nomadic Fulani of Cameroon and their neighbors, the Kirdi, both make these beaded aprons. Maidens wear beaded cache sexe, sometimes torn by their husbands as part of wedding night rituals. See CAMEROON-ART AND LIFE INTERWOVEN, BY JAROCKI.
(Africa Direct, 2008)
The ethnic groups of the Northern Mandaras are often generally referred to as
Kirdi. Kirdi is a word of Kanuri origin and is translated by Cyffer (1994:130)
as pagan (kerdi/krdi=pagan). The ethnonym Kirdi has a derogatory connotation,
but is also used by montagnards to refer to their ethnic pride. Ela (1994:8-14)
e.g. speaks of ‘Kirditude’ meaning the attitude of a Kirdi. The historical
meaning of the word is possibly best translated as ‘all those who were
non-Muslims and who could therefore be subjected to enslavement (Muller-Kosack
(1999), which was in accordance with the Qur’anic law against the enslavement of
free persons, after which Muslims could only be enslaved under clearly defined
circumstances (Rihill 1996:106). In this context the word Kirdi can also be
interpreted as a social ideology of resistance against Islamization and the
holding on to a traditional local religious system. The first mentioning of
Kirdi is by Denham 1826 (1985:145) who translates the word ‘Kerdies’ as ‘Negroes
who have never embraced the Mohammedan faith’. Denham used the word Kirdi not
only for montagnards, but for all pagan groups of the mountains and of the
plains. The fact that the ethnonym Kirdi was later only applied to montagnards
must be seen in the context of the integration of the ethnic groups of the
plains into the Muslim community since the late nineteenth century.
(cited from Spurlock Museum in Illinois, USA, 2013, http://www.spurlock.illinois.edu/index.html )
Also known as the Matakam people (Kirdi means pagan and was used to label
the people by the Islamized Kanuri or Fulani) this group lives in small farming
communities and are known for their personal adornments.
The beaded aprons are called "cache sexes" which means literally, to hide the sex. They were worn until 1961 as pubic aprons when the government required women to be fully clothed.
Originally fabricated out of iron strips which were held together by fiber strips, these aprons were worn by mature married women. Today, the beaded aprons have replaced the iron ones and are worn by women during special occasions like marriage or during the presentation of a newborn child.
Textile and costumes designs reflect cultures and individual interests. They can also convey information about the surroundings in which they were created, either by use of materials or design motifs, which refer to plants, animals, architecture and religious beliefs.
(cited in 2013 from http://www.internationalfolkart.org/eventsedu/education/seldomseen/textilesec.html
This type of old glass beaded panel are often called modesty aprons or cache
sex and were worn by pre-pubescent girls to attract attention and as a
protection against evil. They are made by the Kirdi people of Northern Cameroon.
These tiny skirts were often the only garment worn and were a symbol of
womanhood and were meant to protect a woman’s sex organs as it was believed that
they are particularly vulnerable to the intrusion of evil spirits.
(Zerdalia, Cheztamtam, Paris, France, 2013)
The Kirdi, from the Cameroon, create cache-sexes, worn by women, for
protection and to attract attention. Different cache-sex styles identify group
affiliations, age grades, and special conditions such as puberty, marriage, and
widowhood. The Cameroon government has long outlawed the wearing of cache-sexes,
but the practice continues under the cover of long robes. The glass beaded
aprons reveal a variety of chevron and triangular patterns. It is claimed that
the lower portion of the apron is deliberately cut (or torn) on a wedding night
to symbolize the consummation of the marriage. Cache-sex pubic jewelry, called
pikuran by the Kirdi, is traditionally worn by women in place of clothing. Worn
to attract the eye, it may also serve as form of protection against evil, like
the penis shields of woven fiber and calabash shell that used to be worn by the
Kirdi men. Only in the very remote mountain villages do women still wear
cache-sex jewelry every day, and it is usually only the older generation who do
(African Ark, 2013)
These were worn for celebrations, rituals and rites of passage by women who
had reached puberty for protection against the evil eye and also to attract
attention. The old Bohemian glass beads were usually strung in chevron or
( http://zenakruzick.com/gallery-africa.htm, 2013 )
More than decorative, the apparel and ornament of Africa provide information about the bearer. Each group has a characteristic look which emphasizes qualities it considers important. Cultural ideals vary throughout the continent and are expressed in clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, arrangement of the hair, scarification, and manipulation of certain features. Within a culture a single glance is often enough for one member to place another in social context: wealth, eligibility for marriage, initiation status, and employment are all conveyed through adornment.
The possession of certain objects, such as the Cameroon Grassfields pipe, is a privilege afforded only to those of high rank. Others, such as the beaded Kirdi cashe-sex, are meant for ceremonial occasions. A rich or an important person might indicate his or her position by using elaborately decorated accessories or by wearing large numbers of the same object.
Glass is prized and not given lightly
Cultural standards determine not just the use of apparel, but its production as well. Among the Yoruba, men and women produce different kinds of cloth with different uses. men use horizontal looms to create narrow strips of cotton or silk which are sewn together to make the gowns and wrapper ensembles worn respectively by women and men of high status. Women's cloth, woven on broader looms, has ritual as well as domestic applications. The production of adire, cotton masked with cassava paste and dyed in indigo, was once exclusively the work of women, but recently men have take to it as well. Wearing the brilliantly patterned men's cloth kente, formerly allowed only to Ashanti royalty, is now encouraged among all Ghanians as a proud expression of national unity.
(cited in 2013 from http://www.ohio.edu/africanart/GalleryMainPage.html )
For similar objects, see for instance
For a video about Nike Davis and adire, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kn_6zinf7cI&NR=1
"Nike Davies Okundaye is one of the internationally known and renowned female artists and textile designers from Africa. The veteran textile designer brings a vivid imagination as well as a wealth of history and tradition regulating the production of adire which is the traditional Yoruba hand painted cloth.
Nike spent the early part of her life in Oshogbo which is recognised as one of the major centres for art and culture in Nigeria. During her stay in Oshogbo, her informal training was dominated by Indigo and Adire. She is today a proud product of the famous Oshogbo Art School.
The dynamism of Nike's compositions, the complexity and firm structure, emerge in her textile designs particularly for the adire and batiks. Nike brings to her adire a vivid imagination as well as a wealth of history and tradition regulating the production of adire. Adire is the traditional Yoruba hand painted cloth. Traditional adire designs are myriad, full of meaning and history, which are combined into larger overall patterns with names that are universally recognised in the Yoruba culture. She seeks to re-establish the value of adire as art, and to increase the appreciation of this meticulously designed, hand produced textile. For many years this veteran adire artist has created both adire and batik works that glorify the social practices and the cosmic drama of Yoruba tradition. The prevailing indigo colour of her textiles accentuates the aura, mystery and beauty of her designs.
Nike has used her international success to launch a cultural revival in Nigeria. She is the founder and director of 3 art centres which offer free training to over 150 young artists in visual, musical and performing arts. The centre also serves as a rich source of knowledge for traditional arts and culture to scholars and interested bodies.
From her first solo exhibition at the Goethe Institute, Lagos in 1968, Nike has grown to become one of the major imprints on the international art circuits. She 'represents the new breed of African woman artist, many of whose realities are now international, though in essence they are perpetuating the living tradition of female artists and 'cloth-queens', controlling heady empires of fabric- wealthy powerful women'. Nike is known all over the world trumpeting her designs through exhibitions and workshops in Nigeria, USA, Belgium, Germany, Japan and Italy to mention a few. She lives and works in Lagos.
Artist and designer, Nike Davies Okundaye, loves Nigeria, her
country. She describes the country as one with an ancient culture that thrives
in modern cities, a world that swings with ease between talking drums and the
For more than 20 years, Nike has given workshops on traditional Nigerian textiles to audiences in America and Europe. She is known for her colourful batik and paintings that offer modernist gloss on traditional themes. Brought up amidst the traditional weaving and dying vocation, Nike is widely practiced in her native village of Ogidi Kogi State, North Central Nigeria.
Her fame as an artist and teacher has taken her all over the globe. Not one to pass up an opportunity, she used her international success to launch a cultural revival, building art centers where young Nigerians master traditional arts and crafts. Whether a specialist in the arts, an enthusiast of African arts or merely interested in a brief immersion in a new culture, Nike offers the opportunity to see Nigeria through fresh eyes.
Mrs. Davis-Okundaye discovered art when she was seven years old. While staying with her great grandmother, she learnt the craft of traditional weaving and dying. Therefore, art comes naturally to her.
Interestingly, Nike ended her formal education at Primary 6 in her village at Ogidi-Ijumu. She didn't even study art, the medium through which she has achieved global fame. However, she went ahead to teach herself English at home while her great grandmother, late madam Ibitola, an accomplished adire textile maker and a dyer of fabric in her days, passed down the training in art to her.
Watching her great grandmother in the art of adire textile processing and helping her out, Nike walked up the line to become an expert in the adire art, dyeing, weaving, painting and embroidery.
Her early life was full of the twists and turns; of dangerous adventures. At 13, she ran away from home and joined a travelling theatre before settling down to stay with her aunt in Osogbo. It was there that she met the late renowned artist, Suzanne Wenger.
Watching Suzanne work became an inspiration for her and before long, she also started carving, weaving and painting textiles.
She started her first gallery in 1983, in Osogbo. After drinking from the rich fountain of Suzanne Wenger's spring, she relocated home and branched out on her own, selling her art works as well as holding workshops for people to create or sell their own art pieces.
Her Art Galleries
In 1996, Nike established an Aso-Oke (textile) weaving center at Ogidi-Ijumu for the women of the village. The centre's impact was felt in the town, employing and empowering more than 200 women. Six years later, she established another art centre, this time the Art and Culture Research Center at Piwoyi village, FCT Abuja. The centre had an art gallery and a textile museum, the first of its kind in Nigeria to provide functional platform for research into Nigerian traditional textile industry in the Federal Capital Territory area of Abuja.
In furtherance of these noble endeavors, Nike is currently the managing director and founder of the following organisations in Nigeria; Nike Art Productions Limited, which she incorporated in 1994, Nike Art Gallery Limited, which she incorporated in 2007 and the Nike Research Centre for Art and Culture Limited, incorporated in 2007. Also in 2007, she founded the Nike Art and Culture Foundation with some eminent Nigerians as trustees, with the aims and objectives of fostering Nigerian cultural heritage.
Mrs. Davis-Okundaye says the purpose of her setting up Art Galleries in Oshogbo, Lagos, Abuja is to promote Nigerian culture and leave a legacy for coming artists. In the building are arts in form of painting, tie and dye, adire, batik, carvings, sculpture and the likes. These are expressions of individuals' minds or perceptions. It also serves as a tourist centre for visitors while artists hold exhibition there.
What Next for Her?
She says her next move is to present Nigerian art to the world 'in a way that people can just admire the beauty of our art'. In this vein, she advises artistes to get more involved in marketing Nigerian arts to the world. 'Once our art is marketed to the world, people can value the art more and come to appreciate it better,' she said.
cited in 2011 from
Various people are united in the Bakuba/Kuba kingdom, including the leading Bushong/Bushoong/Bushongo, the Ngeende and the Ngongo.
Many small rectangular mats were woven
separately, hemmed and sewed together to make long wrap-around ceremonial dance
The dark colours were prepared from burned leaves.
The red colour was prepared from wet, small pieces of wood from the Tukula tree.
Each piece took months to make.
These skirts were worn wrapped multiple times.
The following are fragments from a text written by Duncan
Clarke on the
Adire African Art WWW site:
“The embroidered and appliqué decorated raffia cloths of
the Kuba peoples of the Kasai river region of the Democratic Republic of Congo
(formerly Zaire) are the best known survivors of an ancient African tradition of
fine quality raffia cloth weaving that was once widespread across the whole of
Central Africa. Similar embroidered cloths from the Kongo kingdom on the coast
to the west were greatly admired in post-Renaissance Europe and entered the
curio cabinets and treasuries of nobles and kings as the finest products of
More recently their mastery of abstract patterning was a source of inspiration to artists such as Klee, and Matisse, who displayed part of his large collection on the wall of his studio.
The Kuba are a diverse group of peoples who at least until recently had a number of distinct sub-styles of raffia cloth decoration. The main ceremonial occasions and court rituals for which long raffia dance skirts and embroidered cloth panels, mbal, were once produced are quite rare events today. The continued survival of the techniques in an age where most Kuba people wear factory produced cloth for everyday dress is mainly due to the importance of embroidered and appliqué cloth in funeral celebrations. Fine cloths are accumulated within the matrilineages over several generations, with much debate over which examples are suitable for use in the ceremonial presentations and exchanges accompanying funerals. Kuba apparently believe that they would not be recognised by their clan ancestors in the land of the dead unless they were correctly dressed in high quality raffia textiles.
Among the Kuba peoples of the Kasai river region in Congo men are responsible for the weaving of raffia cloth, but once the cloth is complete it is the responsibility of women to prepare it for decoration.
The cloth as woven is stiff and rough with loose and uneven edges. Even for everyday use it must be hemmed and softened before it can be sewn into a larger garment. If it is to form one of the main prestige garments, the dancing skirt, it will be softened by pounding it in a large wooden mortar, and in some cases treated with a wine-red or brown dye.
It was previously thought that the actual process of decorating the cloths was done only by women, but recent research by Patricia Darish suggests that men are responsible for decorating the rectangular skirts that they wear themselves, while women decorate smaller female dancing skirts and cut-pile embroidered panels.
Among the decorative techniques that both men and women may use are certain types of embroidery, appliqué and reverse appliqué, patchwork, dyeing, and tie dyeing.
Women's dance skirts are up to nine yards in length, being wound several times around the body and folded down over a belt.
The men's skirts are significantly longer and normally have distinct borders often with a fringe of raffia bobbles.
Appliqué, often outlined and emphasized by sewing around the design area with a darker thread, is one of the two most important decorative techniques utilised on Kuba ceremonial textiles. It has been suggested that the use of appliqué among the Kuba arose out of the need to repair the holes in cloth caused by the rigorous pounding of the woven raffia required to achieve the desired softness. Right-angled, rectangular, or circular patches are sewn over the holes that emerge in the softening process, while other patches are then sewn on undamaged areas of the cloth to balance the overall visual effect.
Support for the idea that this may be the origin of the use of appliqué is provided by examining some of the oldest Kuba dance skirts in museum collections. The bulk of the patches on some of these do seem to have been motivated by the need to repair holes and achieve a balanced design, with quite large areas of cloth left plain. In later examples there is a tendency to cover the whole surface of the cloth with appliqué, often including some figurative designs.”
To more information in the
text by Ann E. Svenson,
Kuba Textiles: An Introduction.
WAAC Newsletter, Volume 8, Number 1, Jan. 1986, pp. 2-5.
Besides many details on the Shoowa textitles, the following book includes
also a text about the long Kuba skirts and a few photos on pp. 134-143, as well
as references to older information sources.
Shoowa motieven: Afrikaans textiel van het Kuba-rijk.
Gemeentekrediet, Belgium, 1986, 205 pp.
Two Kuba textiles are shown and briefly described on pp. 276-277 of the book
Africa: the art of a continent.
Munich, New-York : Prestel, 1995.
(Published at the occasion of the great exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London, England.)
Kuba ntshak textiles are described and shown among other African textiles in the following printed books:
Au fil de la parole - Tissus de l'Afrique Noire - Tuche aus Schwarzafrika.
Luxembourg : Banque de Luxembourg, Musee Dapper, 1996, on pp. 11-18
Paris : Adam Biro, 1998, 160 pp.
"Die persönlichen Zeremonialkleider der
Bushong werden rockartig gleichermassen von Frauen und Männern getra-gen.
Machart und Muster sind Geschlecht, Würdenträ-gern und Zeremonien genau
zugeordnet. Die Tücher konnten mitunter auch als wertvolles Tauschmittel oder
Geschenk Verwendung finden. Das Grundgewebe dieser Kleider besteht aus Raphia,
dem Blattfasern-Bast der Vinifera-Palme und wird von Män-nern hergestellt. Die
grauen Farbtöne werden mit dem durch das Verbrennen von Blättern gewonnen
Eisenoxyd erzeugt, die roten aus dem mit Wasser vermengten, pulve-risiertem Holz
des Tukula-Baumes. Frauen verzieren anschliessend die Stoffbahnen aus ca.
50x50cm grossen zusammengenähten Stücken."
Literatur: Georges Meurant, Traumzeichen. Verlag Fred Jahn, München, 1989
http://www.shoowa.com/ = http://shoowa.com/ sells Kuba/Shoowa raphia textiles
Ton sur ton.
With black embroidery and appliqué outlined and emphasized by sewing around the design area with a darker thread, all in the characteristic, typical Kuba / Bushoong patterns.
Weight is 3.0 kg.
Each panel is made of two uneven parts.
Bought on an auction of tribal art in Antwerpen, Belgium.
A photo of a similar piece is available free of charge from the database of photos of pieces in museums in France, from http://www.photo.rmn.fr
!! The outer part that is most visible when the skirt is worn:
! The central part:
The inner part is less important; it receives less attention; it is not seen when the skirt is worn:
Weight is 3.2 kg.
Length is 6 meter.
Width is 0.8 meters.
With discoloration from deeper red to fainter red.
Probably very old and well used as it is very soft in contrast to new raphia, and with many repairs with patchwork.
Bought on an auction of tribal art in Antwerpen, Belgium.
A photo of a similar piece is available free of charge from the database of photos of pieces in museums in France, from http://www.photo.rmn.fr/
!! The outer part that is most visible, when the panel skirt is worn:
! Panels in the the central part:
Not in the collection anymore; sold 2011-04
Large upper part for the
waist dyed in warm red;
smaller, narrower, lower part closer to the ground in natural ochre colour, not dyed.
This yields an special and attractive colour combination.
With a fringe of raffia bobbles, that may indicate that this is a men’s skirt.
Some of the panels are almost left plain; as most recent pieces are full of decorations, and as the patchwork on older pieces was applied to cover holes only, this may indicate that this is an old piece.
Weight is 2.5 kg.
Bought on an auction of tribal art in Antwerpen, Belgium.
Not in the collection anymore; sold
painted cloths from Zimbabwe
any comments, appreciations, guesses, suggestions and opinions are welcome, for instance about origin, probable age, degree of authenticity (really used, traditionally made but not really used, copy/fake...), value...
This document has been updated most recently 2013-03
http://condor.depaul.edu/~jmessmer/survey/webliogr.html Webliography for
Survey of Art, Architecture, Fashion and Furniture
The Theatre School of DePaul University
Theatre 381,382, 383
Instructor: Janet C. Messmer
http://garamond.stanford.edu/africa/art.html a directory made at Stanford University on African art
http://lulef.free.fr/html/liens.html about old African art
http://www.africarte.it/links/links.htm about African art, in Italy
http://www.artifact.ac.uk/displayoai.php?id=7726 "Best of the Web for the Arts and Creative Industries" a directory of selected WWW sites
http://www.centraldaceramica.com.br/Central/web/links/body.htm about ceramics art
http://www.hanszell.co.uk/google/chapter4.shtml "Using Google for African Studies Research"
a directory of selected sources, created by UK academic information
"Intute is a free online service providing access to the very best web resources for education and research. All material is evaluated and selected by a network of subject specialists to create the Intute database."
http://www.lib.msu.edu/limb/a-z/az.html "An A-Z of African Studies on the Internet" of Michigan State University.
http://www.randafricanart.com/Favorite_Links.html An overview of WWW sites on African art.
http://www.tribalartsdirectory.com/ The directory of WWW sites on tribal art.
http://www.webzinemaker.net/africans-art/index.php3?action=galerie which include several photos and descriptions from this WWW site
Keywords in other languages for this page:
Afrika, Afrikaans, Afrikaanse, antropologie, antropologisch, beeld, beelden, beeldhouwkunst, beeldhouwwerk, beeldhouwwerken, boek, boeken, caoline, clan, clans, Congo, Congolees, etnisch, etnische, ethnisch, etnische, etnografie, etnografisch, etnografische, ethnografie, ethnografisch, ethnografische, hoed, hoeden, hout, houten, houtsnijwerk, kleur, kleuren, Kongo, kunst, kunsten, kunstenaar, kunstenaars, masker, maskers, neger, negers, negerkunst, pigment, pigmenten, pluim, pluimen, pop, poppen, primitief, primitieve, raffia, rafia, sculptuur, sculpturen, speelgoed, stam, stammen, tekstiel, textiel, totem, totems, tribaal, veer, veiling, veilingen, veren, verf, geverfd, vezels, vruchtbaarheid, zaire
Africaines, Afrique, art premier, arts premiers, congolais, congolaise, fecondite, fetiche, fibres, geometrie, grenier, livre, livre, metiers, masque, masques, negre, negres, patine, poupee, poupees, robe, style brut, teintures, tribale,
Afrikanisch, Afrikanische kunst, Holzplastik, Schwarzafrika
bambola della fertilità, caolino, conchiglie, femminile, legno, maschera, metallo, patina, pelo, pigmenti, perline, fibre vegetali, piume, statua
This page can be found online at http://www.vub.ac.be/BIBLIO/nieuwenhuysen/african-art/
The Google PageRank of the whole WWW site was 4 in 2010.