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Bed-screen, 'arkilla kerka' made of hand-woven industrial synthetic wool and industrial cotton dyed in the required colours. Rectangular, composed of seven (7) narrow strips hand-sewn together, of which six bear motifs. The overall organisation of the decoration shows fifteen main red-brown or black background bands with continuous transverse weft-faced arrangement, symmetrically displayed. All the bands are decorated with geometrical motifs and dots made by supplementary weft technique.
In the centre of the piece is a brick-red band with a square motif surrounded by eight small lozenges. On each side of that central band are seven bands. The first three bands have a black background with designs made of lozenges and triangles decorated inside with white, brick-red and yellow dots. The middle band is decorated with two lines of un-worked twisted yellow and brick-red wool threads. The black bands are followed by a brick-red band with a design in the form of a lozenge prolonged at two ends by a bar and surrounded by four smaller lozenges. This band is followed by three black bands with designs made of lozenges and triangles and decorated inside with brick-red and yellow dots. The middle band is decorated with two lines of un-worked twisted yellow and red-brown wool threads.
These main design bands alternate with narrow white bands showing geometric designs made of combinations of black, white, yellow and brick-red lozenges and triangles of diverse sizes and decorated inside with brick-red and yellow dots.
The seventh strip has a simple weft-faced decoration of alternating black and white lines, with insertion of yellow and brick-red background.
- Production date
- Curator's comments
- The woollen marriage bed-screens Arkilla kerka are one of the types in the broad category of the marriage bed-screens generically called Arkilla woven in the Inland Delta of the Niger River in Mali. The Arkilla kerka are used by the Fulbe people. These wool and cotton bed-screens are suspended along and over the alcove / bed, forming a mosquito protection by adding another piece of cloth to it. The Arkilla kerka are a prestigious and an essential component of the bride’s trousseau in the Fulbe society and therefore have an extremely important social and symbolic significance.
They are woven by male weavers Maabube (singular 'Maabo') who form a specialised cast of weavers in the Fulbe society. The piece 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 Arkilla kerka is composed of seven strips sewn together, each strip measuring from 25 to 30 cm width and up to five meters length. Six strips have the decorative designs while the seventh, meant to be used for hanging the bed-screen, has a simple black and white line design. The strips are woven either entirely from wool threads or from wool and cotton threads.
An important feature of this piece is the use of industrial cotton threads for the warp, and of industrial synthetic wool for the weft. The use of industrial synthetic materials stresses the continuity and the vitality of the Arkila kerka which is adapted to the introduction of new industrial fibres. The piece is still an expensive and prestigious item requiring an important quantity of industrial wool. The use of industrial wool had spread in the last two decades and reflects the capability of the artisans to introduce new fibres to produce old patterns with good technical quality and at a high aesthetic standard.
As for other Arkila kerka, the mother is responsible for providing this important component of her daughter's marriage trousseau. It is her responsability to purchase the necessary quantity of wool and cotton threads, to commission the weaving and take care of the weaver during the weaving process.
This piece shows the classic decoration of an Arkilla kerka with the transversal weft-faced bands arranged in a symmetrical organisation from each side of the central red-brown design band followed on each side by seven major bands: three black background bands followed by one red-brown band followed by three black bands. These design bands alternate with narrow white bands showing geometrical designs.
The Arkilla kerka is richly decorated with geometrical motifs which all have names and interpretations referring to cosmic symbols, Islamic symbols, social characters and the animal world. The central band has the important motif called in Fulfulde “Lewruwal ye kode” (the moon and the stars), representing the moon surrounded by the stars. The motif on two other red-brown background bands is the “Almaaje” motif (the leader). The motifs on the black background bands are variations of the pattern called “Jugal buragi”, a reference to the tying post for Al Burak, Prophet Muhammad’s horse. The motifs on the narrow white bands include the “Obalaaje” (fishing nets), the “Nopi na uliraabe” (the co-wives), “Tshaldi Burgal” (the whisk for milk), and others.
This piece was made in Takouti (in the Region of Mopti) in 2001-2002.
- Not on display
- Very good condition
- 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
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