The royal cloth of Grassfield kings was used for royal and ritual regalia. It began as a luxury item in long-distance trade. In the 19th century there was an active trade in indigo dyed cloths from the Upper Benue River region of Nigeria into the Cameroon Grassfields and highland kingdoms. These cloths are attributed to the Abakwariga, Hausa-speaking craftsmen assimilated into the Jukun kingdom in the Wukari area. King Njoya began local production among the Bamum peoples in Fumban, Cameroon, circa 1910. Today the Bamileke peoples coordinate a complex, dispersed cloth-production system.
This cloth is large in size and made up of many narrow strips of handwoven cotton. Stitching a resist pattern with raffia and dying in indigo creates the pattern. Such cloths were used as exchange gifts among chiefs and as backdrops on state occasions.
Cotton cloth with indigo dye linear geometric patterns, cross-in-circle and triangles, swastikas and double iron gong motifs in the center.
Honorable Jack Faxon, Farmington Hills, Michigan, -- to 1991
African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 2013–August 12, 2019 (installed July 18, 2018–July 10, 2019)