Michigan State University

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Threads of Change – The Transformation of West African Textiles

African art in general and West African textiles in particular are vibrant and changing.
West Africa is the heartland of African textile production. From the Kente cloth of Ghana and mud cloth of Mali to the indigo Adire cloth of Nigeria and printed cottons of Guinea both tradition and innovation are evident. The evolution of traditional crafts, the ingenuity of individual artists, and commercial global market forces have all influenced the design, color, meaning and function of West African textiles.
African art has never been frozen in time. The exciting patterns, designs, and color combinations of the cloth coincide with changes in culture, religion and trade networks.
In this exhibit you will see examples of some of the changes in cloth over time. While traditional mud cloth is painted in great symbolic detail, commercial works are produced quickly with pleasing designs and, often, western markets in mind. Fine artists from Mali using traditional vegetable dyes with original designs now exhibit their mud cloth in contemporary art galleries in Europe and the United States.
Many of the textiles to be exhibited have been donated to the Museum, often by faculty. These textiles were collected by professors with a range of specialties in African Studies while traveling, working and living in Africa. They illustrate the longstanding vitality of the work of Michigan State University in West Africa.
This magnificent display of textiles illustrates how cloth has been transformed and refigured over time. It is hoped that visitors will enjoy the artistry and skill of the producers represented by the textiles but also understand this practice in its cultural and historical contexts. African art belongs to the past and to the present. This exhibit will bring the viewer to a deeper understanding of Threads of Change in West African Textiles.
Guest curator: Chris Worland
This exhibition is made possible by project partners at Michigan State University: African Studies Center, Center for Advanced Study of International Development, MSU Museum, Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives (Creating Inclusive Excellence Grant), and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities.
Related Programs for “Threads of Change”
Monday, January 19 – 3:30 – 6 p.m.
Martin Luther King Day Reception
Meet the Curator and Gallery Tour with Chris Worland
MSU Museum Main Gallery
Saturday, February 7 — 10 a.m – 3 p.m.
“Bogolan Textile from Mali: Natural dyes and Symbolism”
Adult Arts Workshop
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities Workshop
Snyder Hall
Fee: $35. To register, contact: chrworland@yahoo.com
Wednesday, February 11 — 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Panel Discussion with Artist’s in Residence Kandioura Coulibaly, Boubacar Doumbia and Janet Goldner
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, Auditorium
Snyder Hall
Sunday, February 15 — 2 p.m.
Gallery Talk and demonstration by the artists of Groupe Kasobane: Kandioura Coulibaly and Boubacar Doumbia with Janet Goldner
MSU Museum Main Gallery
Saturday, March 21 — 1-3 p.m.
African Fabric Workshop for Children
MSU Museum Auditorium
Wednesday, March 25 — 7 – 9 p.m.
International Book Club Meeting
“Monique and the Mango Rains. Two years with a Midwife in Mali,” by Kris Holloway (Sponsored by East Lansing Public Library)
MSU Museum Main Gallery
Programs free of charge unless otherwise noted.
Also of interest:
Visual Griots: An Exhibit of Photography by African Youth
Through March 15, 2009
MSU Museum – Heritage Gallery
This exhibit of photos by Malian youths, which debuted at Smithsonian, is curated by Shawn Davis and is a project of the Academy for Educational Development, Washington, D.C. A team of Malian and U.S. photographers went into the villages of Damy and Kouara to put cameras in the hand of youth, empower them to document their lives, and help them better connect with their communities and the world. The exhibit will involve outreach and civic engagement activities, especially with Lansing, Mason, and Lansing Special Education classrooms. Learn more.
Arts and culture at MSU
Arts and culture at MSU play a critical role in nurturing the human spirit while contributing to a richer quality of life. Museums, galleries, and gardens along with libraries, historic sites, and performance spaces provide a catalyst for cultural exchange of diverse ideas and inspirations. At the same time, audiences on campus and around the world take advantage of academic and research outreach programs such as public broadcasting, online resources, and publications.
Join us in exploring a world of arts and culture at Michigan State University. Learn more at http://artsandculture.msu.edu.

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