African designs, £9.99
Length: 113.000 cm
Width: 110.000 cm
Gift of H.L. Littler
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Silk cape (lamd)
From Ethiopia, early 20th century
Embroidered with gold and silver thread, and pieces of brass and coloured glass
A series of panels are suspended from the main section of the lamd. The bottom of each panel is formed into decorative shapes. These panels are stylized versions of the legs and paws of a lion, and imitate earlier capes made from actual lion skins. The lion is an important symbol of authority and royalty in Ethiopia. High-ranking officials of the church and state and members of the nobility would wear such garments. Nowadays the capes are worn only by high ranking church officials.
Luxurious fabrics such as velvet were imported into Ethiopia during the nineteenth century. The raw material for the silver thread comes from the Maria Theresa silver dollar, a coin minted in Austria. They had been used widely in trade with North Africa since the eighteenth century. Local Armenian silversmiths melted them down to use for the intricate decorative patterns sewn onto the capes.
R. Pankhurst, A social history of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa, 1990)
C.J. Spring and J. Hudson, North African textiles (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)