"The scope of meaning associated with cloth is so wide...
[It] is to the African what monuments are to Westerners."

El Anatusui, contemporary artist from Ghana


The textiles present in this room provide examples of the diverse cultural roles and meanings that textile traditions represent in several West African countries. Textiles are often symbols in the societies where they are found and may convey meaning about the social status of the wearer, reflect religious beliefs, or be associated with rites of passage such as funerals, marriages, and puberty ceremonies. Symbols, such as these textiles, may have multiple meanings associated with them depending on the local context. The textile traditions you see in this exhibit represent the dynamic and changing cultures in which they are found. Thus, these textiles while often thought of as "traditional" have also in many cases been "contemporized". These characteristics, represented by the pieces on display here, provide a unique window through which we can learn about the vibrant cultures of West Africa.

Rob Glew
Director of CASID
Associate Professor, Anthropology
Michigan State University