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Appliqué hanging for the doorway of a tent

From Cairo, Egypt early 20th century AD

  • Detail of left side

    Detail of left side

  • Detail of right side

    Detail of right side

 

Length: 285.000 cm (left section)
Width: 86.000 cm (left section)
Length: 285.000 cm (left section)
Width: 86.000 cm (left section)

AOA 1979.Af10.1.b, d

Africa, Oceania, Americas

    Appliqué hanging for the doorway of a tent

    From Cairo, Egypt, early 20th century AD

    A fabric doorway

    This canvas-backed appliqué hanging was designed in two halves, probably to form the doorway of a large tent. Tents are used by the Berber peoples of North Africa who travel the region to graze and water their flocks of sheep and goats. They are also used by city dwellers to accommodate people at important events.

    In Cairo, commissions are made to the tent-maker, khiyamiya, through a middleman, farrash. The farrash negotiates the amount of material with the customer. The craft of tent-making in Egypt is a family business. The older men, the master craftsmen, combine free-hand drawing of the design onto the canvas base with tracing elements of the pattern onto paper. The template is perforated with tiny holes and secured to the base cloth. Carbon powder is brushed gently through the holes, leaving a pattern on the cloth on which young apprentices sew coloured cotton cloth to cover individual motifs.

    Two main elements are used in the design of tents. Firstly, decorative scrollwork in a wide variety of patterns and colours; secondly, Arabic scripts, mainly quotations from the Qur'an or words of greeting from the host to his guests.

    Although tent making is the main family business, the craftsmen are flexible and skilled in turning their hands to producing cloth of any size, colour and shape for local sale and for sale to tourists. Pharaonic scenes and other images from folklore are applied by the khiyamiya to cushion covers and tea towels as a side line for sale to tourists.

    C.J. Spring and J. Hudson, North African textiles (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

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