Madagascar's stunning supplemental warp akotofahana cloths--prized by Europeans in the nineteenth century as the sparkling jewels of Malagasy textile arts--enjoyed a revival in the 1990s. An English art historian, Simon Peers, combined forces with a group of Merina weavers who shared his pride in this historic art form. Together they created the weaving cooperative now known as Lamba SARL. The group researched and recreated many nineteenth century akotofahana patterns found in the collections of the Queen's Palace of Antananarivo (destroyed by fire in 1995) and the British Museum of London.
According to Sarah Fee, a noted scholar of Malagasy textile traditions, Lamba SARL weavers have revived not only the patterns but also the decorative techniques that distinguish the older textile tradition. In her 2002 essay "Cloth in Motion" on Madagascar’s textile history, Fee notes that the border of this cloth "includes a band of supplemental warp floats that is created separately and sewn to both faces of the cloth ends. The plaited fringe has been knotted into balls. Both of these are techniques that Merina weavers abandoned in the mid-to late nineteenth century."
Hand woven silk textile composed of five main brocaded panels, four narrow brocaded bands that also include supplemental warp designs, and finished with patterned silk borders in a supplementary warp technique and a braided fringe that is then knotted. A striped plain weave of dark red, light purple, dark blue, grey, tan and olive colors forms the cloth's substrate. It is then embellished with complex supplemental warp (or brocade) patterns, mostly geometric and floral designs that pick up the colors of the warp. The green and orange border has a weft-faced substrate with supplemental warp patterns and is attached to both sides of the cloth.
Gifts and Blessings: The Textile Arts of Madagascar Malagasy, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, April 14-September 2, 2002
Fee, Sarah. 2002. "Cloth in Motion: Madagascar's Textiles Through History." Objects as Envoys: Cloth, Imagery, and Diplomacy in Madagascar, edited by Christine Mullen Kreamer and Sarah Fee. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 14-15, 79, no. 43, front and back cover.