Meticulous embroidery, magnificent dyeing, and mind-bending weaving form the basis of a gem of a show now on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End took my breath away during a recent visit to the museum that just never fails to inspire and amaze me.
The colors, textures, and especially the craftsmanship of the works on view are completely awe-inspiring and reveal aspects of a world extremely under-appreciated in the realms of art, craft, and design.
Having little other point of reference, many works reminded me of Japanese textiles, especially some of the pieces involving indigo dye and one black shawl composed of fine, intricate openwork. But in actuality, these works reflect languages of their own, coming from regions all over the continent over a broad swath of time.
The show includes a great video by contemporary British artist Grace Ndiritu called The Nightingale (see below) in which the artist trains a camera on her head then expressively "plays" with a printed scarf, winding it and wrapping it in hundreds of evocative and thought-provoking configurations.
My favorite pieces are not pictured on the website (of course), but the pictures do no justice to the work anyway -- the textures, the movement, and the richness of these textiles can only be appreciated in person.
[Video via You Tube, 0:31]
Thru April 5, 2009. Catalogue available.