African Textile Workshop

I was invited to attend the African Textile workshop to further my research into diaspora.

The workshop, which was organised by Funmi, Uzo, Jo and Maureen was funded by the Arts Council Wales as part of Black History Wales 365 Workshop. It was hosted by Funmi, a Nigerian national, and was held in the Swansea Grand Theatre.

When I arrived, there was an on-going Zoom presentation by Chuks Ukabuilu from Nigeria who was passionately describing the significance and special meanings of the fabric designs and diverse qualities of fabrics available, also the importance of selecting the correct fabric to represent diaspora. Chuka was insistent that for best results only the best quality fabrics should be purchased.  

April and Suzanne from the Chinese in Wales Association enquired about fabric-care and how best to wash these fabulously complex and brightly coloured fabrics. Chuka became very animated and delighted with the interest articulated by the workshop participants and described in detail the best approach to cleaning to ensure longevity of any garments made from the traditional African fabrics. Of particular note was the handwoven Kente fabric, which has a special weave and significant colours. Each of the colours of the highly decorated fabric has a symbolic meaning, such as, White: purity and spirituality, Green: a medicinal colour and Blue:, which represents peace and love. The choice of fabric for a garment holds more significance than just a fashion statement. The word ‘Kente’ means ‘basket’ and in Ghana is manufactured by the men.

Several types of fabric were employed during the workshop, including Ankara, a handwoven product, which is 100% cotton and the Asante cloth, which usually worn as a gown thrown over the shoulder by the men. Pregnant women frequently wear the Adire fabric as a waist wrap as the fabric has a very ‘free’ feel to it.

Whilst I was at the workshop the participants were invited to select one of the high-quality fabrics available to create a hair scrunchie under the tutelage of Maureen.

Everyone embraced the task and produced some stunning pieces, and from images I’ve seen of the second day of the workshop they produced some exceptional garments from the fabrics provided.

My attendance to the workshop, of just a few hours, culminated with an invitation from Suzanne to photo-document the Chinese Umbrella Dance later in the month.

I am very grateful to the Race Council Cymru for the opportunity to attend the workshop and for the welcome I received from the workshop participants.

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