Miracles–for me–are more like a tremendously granted wish, rather than waters parting. But if the waters are parting, you better cross. Or run! as I did through a busy traffic intersection to get on the bus for the last day to see Kuba Textiles: Geometry in Form, Space, and Time. Big up to Michelle Bishop of Harlem Needle Arts for partnering with the museum in Purchase, N.Y., to procure transport for us non-driving city folk–a tremendous wish granted.
Yards Of Splendor
The show's featured panel on the invitation sealed the deal on my fascination. My exposure to Kuba cloth had been primarily through African fabric sellers. And honestly? I found it uninteresting. Yeah, the pile texture is nice, and the labor appreciable, but I preferred the colorful, visually complex, woven and printed fabric of the western coast. But see? When the spirits call on you to learn, and release your mind of its experiential prejudices, it will be blown and your creativity will receive a surfeit of energy.
Ancestors!! It was breathtaking! Many of the textiles on display had never traveled, and the earliest cloths in this exhibit are from two sources: The Musée Royal de L'Afrique Centrale in Tervuren, Belgium, and our own Hampton University, The Sheppard Collection. Since I honestly cannot devote the proper space in this blog to describe this immense undertaking, I implore you to purchase the Nueberger's visually resplendent, and scholarly but readable catalog, Kuba Textiles: Geometry In Form, Space, And Time (Neuberger Museum of Art of Purchase College, SUNY).
Shook! Not Shaken
I was shook by the fine needlework. The prevalence of it and several other techniques: resist, tie-dye, cut-work and reverse appliqué–often occurring in the same cloth, and shared in both men's and women's skirts and overskirts (ncák and mapel, respectively) was spellbinding. Were these stitches created in isolation or as the result of foreign contact? I lost myself in reverent venerations of these fabrics and objects in complete agreement with (for once) the narrative of the artistic accomplishments of the Kuba people, written in distinguished praise by early missionaries and explorers.
Rounding out the day were children's workshops on making Kuba cloth, taught by Lisa Shepard Stewart, along with a drumming performance. Arriving back in the city, I had to tamp down my urge to speed home and send my studio into creative chaos, referencing the stunning catalog photos to create new samples. I settled in with Mr. K for dinner instead.
I will leave you with a slide show to further enjoy and marvel at these panels that has propelled me to board a Mega bus to Hampton University to see the complete collection. Do any of you recognize or can name the other embroidery techniques shown? What are your experiences with Kuba cloth? I'd love to know! Holla' back!