African designs, £9.99
Length: 93.000 cm
Width: 91.000 cm
Gift of Mrs Eustace Smith
Tapestry woven woollen tunic
From the Mzab Valley, Algeria, early 20th century AD
Patterns of good fortune
In rural areas of North Africa weaving is done by women, using wool as the main material. Young girls are taught the art of weaving by their mothers in rural communities and undergo various rituals before weaving in order to deflect evil influences and to help promote creative powers.
Although many of the patterns that are woven are based on established designs, the weaver is also able to experiment with her creative ideas. Women who weave have a high status in the rural areas of North Africa and produce textiles for social occasions, to provide gifts, and for ceremonial and ritual purposes. Patterns on cloth may also denote age, gender and marital status.
This tunic (gandura) is woven by women for their sons to wear in the winter months. The named design elements includes 'birds with their young', 'pomegranate seeds', 'couscous grains', 'keys', 'forks', and a 'table with guests', emphasizing the harmony and domesticity of life within this isolated community.
C.J. Spring and J. Hudson, North African textiles (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)