African textiles carry a huge signifying power and are routinely used to express statements about the self.
In my posts about the West African ankara/wax and Kenyan kanga textiles I argue that design amplifies their currency within and beyond Africa. The semantic potential of their abstract or partially-abstract patterns make the textiles a versatile channel of cultural translation.
The textiles are also worn to express political engagement and knowledge of local and global events. They often show iconic public figures which are represented in portrait-form.
Inspired by online discussion about the recent celebrations of Mandela Day, I looked for resources on Mandela-inspired textile designs.
Here are some of the links I found:
Materializing Mandela’s Legacy: an exhibition of textiles inspired by the South African icon’s contribution to human rights and social justice, presented at Michigan State University Museum until August 18, 2015
African Portrait Cloth: a review by Heather Marie Akou of the exhibition “Long Live the President! Portrait Cloth in Africa” held at Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam in 2010
African Textiles from Nelson Mandela to Michael Jackson: a video showing images of the eponymous 2013 exhibition at London’s British Museum
Madison, D. S., “Dressing Out-of-Place: From Ghana to Obama Commemorative Cloth on the USAmerican Red Carpet” in Hansen, K. T., and D. S. Madison, eds, African dress: fashion, agency, performance. A&C Black, 2013, pp. 217-
Rabine, L. W., The Global Circulation of African Fashion, Bloomsbury, 2002.
Spencer, A.M., In Praise of Heroes: Contemporary African Commemorative Cloth: An Exhibition at the Newark Museum, September 14, 1982-February 27, 1983. Newark: Newark Museum.