This cloth is a fine example of West African narrow-strip weaving. Nine identically patterned strips, each about five inches wide, are joined to form bands of pattern across the width of the fabric. The textile was woven with two different techniques, a plain weave with twill patterns and a tapestry weave. Both the overall design and the combination of weaves indicate the diffusion of North African weaving traditions to Sierra Leone. This particular type of weft-dominated cloth, known as kpokpo, is intended for display as an architectural space divider, furniture covering or as a door.
Narrow-strip weaving is done by men on looms with horizontal beds. In Sierra Leone the primary weaving parts--the treadle, the heddles and the beater--are suspended from a tripod composed of poles. The warp, or lengthwise threads, are fixed to poles stuck in the ground to maintain proper tension. Both the weaver and the tripod move along the threads as the cloth is woven. Unlike cloth woven by women on vertical looms, the narrow strips can be almost any length. The strips are cut to a fixed length and sewn together to create a larger cloth. Because the design is carried by the weft, or crosswise threads, it can be of any desired width.
Textile consisting of nine strips of narrow plain weave cotton and tapestry weave joined to form bands of white, blue, light blue and light brown patterns across the width of the fabric.
Mr. Stott-Cooper, acquired in Yengema, Sierra Leone, 1930s
Venice and Alastair Lamb, England, ca. 1970
Patterns of Life: West African Strip-Weaving Traditions, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 28, 1987-February 29, 1988
Gilfoy, Peggy. 1987. Patterns of Life: West African Strip Weaving Traditions. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 57, no. 7.
Lamb, Venice and Alastair. 1975. West African Narrow Strip Weaving. Washington, D.C.: Textile Museum, p. 35, no. 34.
National Museum of African Art. 1999. Selected Works from the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 38, no. 18.