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Artisanale mijnen in Congo.

Fotoreeks Marcus Bleasdale

Fotoreeks Congo Van Per-Anderss Petterson


YEVU is a clothing line that is ethically made in Ghana, West Africa.YEVU, which means “white woman” in the local Ewe language, was a word that Anna Robertson heard daily as she navigated the lively and chaotic city of Accra. Anna spent 12 months living and working in the capital and was amazed at the history of traditional ‘wax’ print - the 100% cotton fabric worn on the streets in an array of riotous prints.

In a bid to connect the Australian buyer with the marketplace of West Africa, Anna partnered with a dedicated team of men and women tailors and seamstresses, operating their businesses at a grassroot level in Ghana. YEVU popped up for the first time in October 2013 in Sydney’s Surry Hills and the collection sold out within one week. 

YEVU aims to celebrate the vibrancy, colour and chaos of West African wax print by offering simple and contemporary designs to a wider market for men and women. This is achieved while supporting and sustaining local industry and small businesses in Ghana, creating economic and creative opportunities.

African Cloth about Culture and Politics

The African cloth usually found in museums is made by hand, one piece at a time. The cloth in this exhibition is different – it was mass-produced for a mass market. The designers and printers are anonymous and sometimes, even the factories are not identified. What this cloth does share with its traditional hand-woven cousins is the fact that it is part of a cultural communication system; it can be “read” by people who speak its language. This exhibition is about that language and its expressions over the past 30 years.

The eye-popping yardage displayed in Image Factories comes from 16 African countries. The messages on this cloth are stylish signs of the times, conveying what’s happening, who’s hot and what’s “in.” The people wearing these clothes, whether as skirts, shirts or headwrappers, become walking advertisements for their personal and collective ideas and aspirations. This is cloth that illustrates and communicates – featuring political and cultural heroes, idols and despots, proverbial wisdom, social campaigns and high spirits.

Image Factories is also about globalization and the policies of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, and their impact on African textile factories.


20th century “commemorative cloth” from Tanzania. Note the advice at the top.

20th century “commemorative cloth” from Tanzania. Note the advice at the top.

West-Africa | Commemorative cloth from Togo| ca. 1967 - 74. | Cotton; plain weave, roller printed

It is a commercially printed commemorative cloth for the University of Nigeria, collected in 1965 in Nsukka Market, Nigeria.

Printed cotton commemorative cloth from Guinea. It is 44.5” x 25”. (There is a photograph of a man in the center with the following text surrounding it, “EL PUEBLO DE GUINEA ECUATORIAL DICE DSI.ALP.D.G.E.”, “PERO CON OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO AL FREBNTE”, “EL PARTIDO DEMOCRATICO GUINEA ECUATORIAL NOS UNE”, “UN PUEBLO UNIDO ES INVENCIBLE.”.)

Commemorative cloth from Guinea, featuring President General Lansana Conte and the “Journee Internationale de la Feminee 8 Mars 1980 [March 8, 1980] Conakry.” It is 102” x 45”.

Printed cotton commemorative cloth from Cameroon. It is 45” x 35.5” (The dominante design is of a triangle in the center with two shaking hands. Cloth commemorates the “Union Nationale Pour la Democratie” and “le Progres UNDP.”)

African cloth designs reflecting modern technology.

African cloth designs reflecting modern technology.

'Love is like a cough, it cannot be hidden' and other swahili valentine phrases

Kanga, the wrapped garments worn mostly by women in East Africa, are more than colorful cloths. In addition to a printed pattern engineered for the standard 1-meter by 1.5-meter length of cotton, each kanga carries an inscription, often in the form of a riddle or proverb. The messages evolved as a means for women to communicate what might at one time, have been considered unacceptable to speak out loud. Subjects cover everything from condolences to gratitude, to wishes of good luck and admonishments for gossiping. Kangas are often given as gifts. They have many uses and it is not uncommon for a woman to have a collection of them, so as to don the appropriate message for every occasion.

Many of the images here are from the Erie Art Museum, which mounted a show about Kanga in 2009. Others are from an exhibition at Arkansas State University.

'When two are in love, their enemies can’t harm them'

Let’s be patient with one another and not fight over small things’

He has promised to love me, I won’t let him down’

There is somebody in the world to love for everybody’

Give Us Peace So We Can Love Each Other (source)

What Are You Holding On For? He Doesn’t Want You! Leave Him!’ (Kanga version of “He’s just not that into you”)

Let us love each other until people ask themselves (about our love)’

Love Me So I Can Calm Down Already’

You can poison romance with too many words’

It is no secret, you are my one and only’

Nelson Mandela, South Africa, in 2001.
Wearing Mandela
Be it a t-shirt or a commemorative portrait cloth, Africa has a long, rich history of printed fabric as a medium of communication. So it is no surprise that so many mourning the death of Nelson Mandela and celebrating his memory have been doing so clad in textiles bearing his image. 
The following images are from The Guardian’s “Nelson Mandela: pictures of the day” and other news sites from around the world.

Kanga for Bush’s visit to Tanzania in 2008.

(Photos from Tropenmuseum and Adire African Textiles.)

Masai women wearing Barack Obama kanga, 2009.

Pope John Paul II’s visit to Benin in 1993

Pope John Paul II’s visit to Benin in 1993