- Museum number
Blanket "kaasa baalewa." Black blanket made of six hand-woven plain-weave strips of locally produced sheep's wool hand sewn together selvedge to selvedge. The wool used is black sheep's wool, white sheep's wool, and white sheep's wool dyed red-brown and yellow prior to weaving.
The decoration is organised in transverse weft-faced continuous bands. From both ends and in the centre of the blanket are large brick-red bands with a white lozenge inside, and a black and white weft-faced bar on either side. On each strip the central band is flanked on both sides by four lozenges – two white-and-red and two white-and-yellow -, while the bands at the ends are flanked on both sides by two small white-and-black lozenges. The lozenges are made in supplementary weft technique.
Both sides of the blanket are finished with plaited black wool threads. The ends of the strips are finished by cords made by twisting together the warp threads protruding from the ends of each strip. The cords of adjacent strips are eventually twisted together and tied to form a knot with a tassel.
- Production date
- 20thC ('late')
Length: 239 centimetres (including tassels)
Width: 133 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- The woollen blankets kaasa are probably the oldest woven materials used by the Fulbe of the Central Delta of the Niger River in Mali. The kaasa baalèwa owe their specificity to their black colour due to the use of black sheep's wool ("baalèwa" refers to the black sheep).
The kaasa baalèwa is composed of six strips sewn together, each strip measuring from 25 to 30 cm width and up to 2.5 m length. The strips are woven from local black sheep wool and natural colour wool dyed with vegetal pigments. The Inland Delta of Mali is the only area in Sub-Saharan Africa where wool is traditionally produced.
This piece shows the classic decoration of a good quality kaasa baalèwa, with transverse weft-faced decorations. An important feature of the piece is the brick-red band at both ends, which is called "daakul" and is a characteristic element found in all types of blankets "kaasa".
Both sides of the blanket are finished with a plait called sembiyaji, made of plaited black wool threads. The ends of the strips are finished by cords made by twisting together the warp threads protruding from the ends of each strip. The cords of adjacent strips are eventually twisted together and tied to form a knot with a tassel.
The process of making a kaasa balèwa is a women’s responsibility. A woman would commission such a blanket for her husband or her son. The production is a complex process starting with gathering the necessary quantity of wool threads either by spinning and dyeing, or by buying them from other sources. The weaving is commissioned with a maabo weaver. The maabube (singular 'maabo') form a specialised cast of weavers in the Fulbe society.
The blanket is woven on a double-heddle narrow strip loom of a particular type used for wool weaving. The whole textile is woven from one continuous warp strip. Each strip is designed in order to match with the strips next to it in order to form the overall design. The weaver plans in advance the designs of each strip according to the desired overall design and length. The motifs are formed by the various different colours of weft threads and types of weft-work. During the weaving process a short length of un-worked warp threads is left between the edges of the adjacent strips to mark the intervals. After the weaving the strips will be separated by cutting the woven piece in the un-worked intervals, and then they will be assembled together by sewing them selvedge to selvedge.
The finishing is done exclusively by the client, i.e. in most cases by the Fulbe. The plait sembiyaji on the sides is made or bought by the client’s husband. All the strips and plaits are assembled together by a skilled Fulbe.
This piece was made in the Region of Mopti in the late 1990s.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- 2006 (22 November)
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased during a fieldwork and collecting trip to Mali by Dr Claude Ardouin (Dept of AOA) from 10-25 November 2006. Purchased from funds provided by Townley Group.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number