African designs, £9.99
Length: 124.000 cm
Width: 355.000 cm
Collected by Sir A.W. Franks
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Hooded cloak of wool and goat's hair
Ouaouzguit region, Morocco, 19th century AD
The Evil Eye on fabric
The design of costume worn in the rural areas of the Maghrib of North Africa is often based on well-established conventions, and membership of social groupings. Among the Berber-speaking populations women weave a mixture of wool and goat's hair to make a variety of clothing for wear or for sale at markets. They are made in a particular style depending on the woman's social affiliations.
Traditionally, men wear cotton or wool tunics and trousers covered by a simple, draped cloth, and in the winter, a densely woven woollen robe with a hood. Such garments provided warmth and flexibility (they are also used as bedding) for the harsh climate of the region.
In North Africa there is a widespread belief in the evil eye, the casting of covetous glances from one person upon the belongings of another. Many items, particularly textiles, are given a decorative pattern to combat the evil eye. This cloak has a brightly-coloured 'eye' motif to protect the wearer. Adult Jewish men could wear this cloak provided the design faced inwards, thus denoting their different faith, though the belief in the protective power of the eye remained the same.
C.J. Spring and J. Hudson, North African textiles (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)