African Art/Western Art


Funeral Bed

NGUESSAN: Rooms decorated with cloths and gold are made for [funerals of] important people--men who are family heads and some rare women--when they die. We do it to show that the person is important and also to show that the family has wealth. This is done for a few important men in the family. I would not have the right to a display with gold if I died now. In the past the room was mainly decorated with Baule cloths but today Baule people use a lot of kente (we call them Kita) cloth from Ghana. We also use large imported cloths from India and Egypt. Recently, young men have been patterning the ceilings with candle smoke. These days funerals last one or two weeks (before they could last a month). At the end of the period, the cloths and the gold are taken down, put in trunks and suitcases and locked up where the sacred family treasure is kept.

VOGEL: This is a recreation of a funeral room where the body had been laid out just after it was removed for burial. The grieving women of the family kept vigil, sitting and sleeping on the floor, while friends and relatives came in to cry and pay their last respects. They would have seen the deceased surrounded by gold and fine cloths. The funeral room recreated here has more Baule cloths than the room I saw in 1993 on which it is based. That one was decorated with several cloths from Ghana and one or two from India or Egypt. Baule cloth is a sophisticated art form; it is represented in this exhibition mainly in this recreated environment. The cloth, used for wearing, as blankets and for funeral display, is cotton, handwoven in narrow bands sewn together and decorated with an endlessly varied combination of motifs and techniques. It is embroidered and dyed with indigo in stripes and a variety of resist techniques including ikat and tie dye.

Back to: NMAfA past exhibits