Recommended Books:  African Textiles


The list of publications dealing specifically with the textiles of Sub-Saharan Africa is not long, but there are some good ones. A few are listed below.

PLEASE NOTE:  We do not sell books; these books are listed for your information only.  

African Textiles and Decorative Arts.  Roy Sieber. New York, 1972. 240 pages, 244 illustrations, 40 in color. This Museum of Modern art publication  features superb pieces from both public and private North American collections. Included are not only costumes and other textiles, but also headdresses, jewelry, personal utensils, decorative scarification and body painting.  A personal note: Roy Sieber was my first art history professor (in 1955!) and I have great admiration for his approach to African tribal arts.

Weaving in Africa South of the Sahara. 
Karl-Ferdinand Schaedler. Munich, 1987.  487 pages, 701 plates, most in black and white.  This huge volume investigates African textile production with great seriousness and thoroughness. It is rich in ethnographic photos, showing costumes as they are worn. It also has excellent loom photos and photos of various textile processes. The numerous cross-references with other works in the literature are helpful.  

African Textiles. John Picton and John Mack. London, 1979.  208 pages, 204 black and white photos, 28 color plates.  This is a good survey of traditional African textile manufacture and design, illustrated with examples from the collections of the British Museum.  Field photographs show the processes and subsequent use. North African textiles are included as well as those from Sub-Saharan areas.    

West African Weaving.  Venice Lamb. London, 1975.  228 pages, 310 black and white illustrations plus a few color plates.  This classic work  focuses on the narrow strip weaving of West Africa. It examines the history and techniques, the geographical distribution, and the economic development of this production. Although it covers weavings from Dakar in Senegal eastwards to Cameroun and northwards to Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad, it describes the work of the Asante and the Ewe in the most complete detail.  

African Majesty: The Textile Art of the Ashanti and Ewe. Peter Adler and Nicholas Barnard.  London, 1992.  192 pages, 131 color plates.  The photos of strip weaves from Ghana and Togo in this book nicely supplement Venice Lamb's book. 

Shoowa Design: African Textiles from the Kingdom of Kuba. Georges Meurant. London, 1986.  205 pages, 102 large color plates and over 800 black and white drawings and illustrations.   This very large volume features beautiful plates of Kuba raffia cloth embroideries from the Congo--most from private collections.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to find copies of this out-of-print book. 

Textile Art of the Bakuba: Velvet Embroideries in Raffia. Sam Hilu and Irwin Hersey. 2003, Atglen, Pennsylvania. 192 pages, with over 400 raffia cloths illustrated.  The text is minimal, with most of the information quoted from Meurant and others. There are, however, lots of photos of the kind of raffia embroideries currently available on the market.
Contempory African Arts and Crafts: On-Site Wrokiing with Art Forms and Processes. Thelma R. Newman. New York, 1973.  306 pages, 460 photographs, 23 color plates.  This book deals with pottery, textiles, basketry, metals, wood and ivory carving and assorted work in hides, feathers, beads and shells. Its focus is almost entirely the technical processes involved, but it also describes how the arts relate to African religion and village life.
The Art of African Textiles: Technology, Tradition and Lurex.  John Picton, with Rayda Becker, Pauline Duponchel, Jackie Guille, Elizabeth Harney, David Heathcote, Julia Hilger, Atta Kwami, Pat Oyelola, and Simon Peers.  London, 1995.  Published to accompany an exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery.  This work focuses on 20th century non-traditional African textiles, revealing the new materials, images, technologies and demands that have enriched the textiles in recent years.  

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