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African Textiles from the Traditional to the Contemporary
Applique Cloth, Fon, Republic of Benin, West Africa, imported cotton, 20th century.
LONG ISLAND, NY.- The Hillwood Art Museum at Long Island University will present the exhibit Threads of Time: African Textiles from the Traditional to the Contemporary starting on January 22 and running through April 14, 2007. Threads of Time, draws on Hillwood Art Museum’s extensive collection of African textile arts and related artifacts generously donated by collectors including Dr. Gilbert and Mrs. Roda Graham. Besides its rich array of textiles, the collection includes various hats, cloth-constructed masks, and weaving implements, coming from several African countries, including Mali, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). Exhibition curator, Professor Lisa Aronson of Skidmore College, has organized the exhibition according to five themes: (1) Techniques & Production; (2) Prestige; (3) Headgear; (4) Masquerades; and (5) Textiles, Trade, and Globalization. Together, these topics weave an interesting story about the production, meaning, and history of textiles in sub-Saharan Africa.

If there is one theme that surfaces throughout this exhibition, it is the idea that cloth in Africa functions as a kind of language, and facilitator of speech. In Africa, where oral traditions often take precedence over written ones, cloth plays an important role in this communication. To some Africans, even the very structure of a woven textile, with its interconnecting warp and weft threads, bears a striking similarity to speech, in which words weave together to create linguistic patterns, or syntax.

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