It’s another weekend of 2020, what a great week it’s been and I hope you feel the vibrations too!
I have always been jamming with woven cloths since the inception of Yaws Creations without knowing the nitty-gritty of these beautiful fabrics. As my love for it keeps growing whenever I do work with them and my creative mind keeps exploring, I slowly start to realize that it wasn’t just an ordinary fabric and that there is a purpose for each pattern/color and strength of these beautiful handmade fabrics locally made in The Gambia. So I dive into research and this is what I found….
Woven cloth is valuable in Gambian culture and important in the country’s religious and social events. Our ancestors have passed this heritage onto us.
Our cloth is more than just clothing. It shows everyone who we are, our age group, status and way of life. It is custom to offer cloth for special occasions, marriages, dowries, charity and funerals and was also used as currency back in the days.
The many different designs, motifs and colors show the purpose of the cloth, each ethnic group has its own details for cloth size, color and pattern.
Our textiles are varied. They include weaving, dying, crochet, applique, beadwork, tapestry and others. Weaving and sewing make up the characteristics of clothing and nature of our textiles.
Today the world has become small, trade, tourism and mechanization bring influences to our culture. Cheaper industrial textiles come into our markets.
With this, I am thinking “where is the Gambian textile tradition heading??
In The Gambia, weaving used to be a man’s profession (women are doing it now) although the entire family participates in picking, cleaning and spinning and dying the cotton.
Weaving is an honourable occupation. With some of the Fula people, each man is taught.
In the past, this craft was practiced by the Maabos, a caste of Fula weavers.
They worked for commission and travelled around, setting up their looms in the clients’ homes. They would eat and sleep there till the job was complete. Today any boy can choose to become a weaving apprentice if he wants to and I don’t see any one going around in people’s homes making them. You would have to meet them at their places of work.
Today most weavers have a large clientele who have specific orders. Any excess cloth is taken to the market to be sold.
The different ethnic groups in the Gambia have many variations in the width of their strips. The Bambara [my tribe] have very narrow strips while the Mandinka weave wide strips with uneven sides, making it very difficult to make into a wrapper and this is where my intervention comes in as a fashion designer and lover of this indigenous fabric.
I already mentioned about using these fabrics in my work, so last year I made my second collection using FATARO in different colors and patterns and it was a BIG SLAM loved by people all over the globe, got so much response on my social media just to acknowledge the beauty of the fabrics.
Again talk about elevating the Gambian fabrics identity and Gambian fashion industry!
Walk through the textile shops in the Serekunda / Banjul / Brikama / Soma markets. See how much foreign material is being appreciated and consider its price. Try to find a merchant selling Gambian- made cloth. All the prints fabrics come from other countries.
Go to the tourist markets. Pattern and colors are repeated year!
Is creativity being sacrificed for a “good price”? Till we adore what we own. See ya’ll next week.