Originally in Africa a lot of the textiles, like that displayed here, were made by men. Yet when slaves were dropped at the United States their work was divided in accordance with Western patriarchal standards and women took over the tradition. However, this strong tradition of weaving left a visible mark on African American quilting. As seen here, the usage of strips, reminiscent of the strips of reed and fabric utilized in men’s traditional weave, are utilized in fabric quilting.
LARGE SHAPES & STRONG COLORS
Often in African textiles, the number of patterns or changes in pattern of a specific cloth directly correlated to the owner’s status. This tradition was thus especially important for royalty and priests — it conveyed prestige, power, status, and wealth. The traditions of improvisation and multiple patterning also protect the quilter from anyone copying their quilts. These traditions allow for a strong sense of ownership and creativity.
APPLIQUE and RECORD KEEPING
The quilt on the correct is titled Black family Album (1854). Representative of her black family’s traditions, heritage, and lineage, its creator used the strategy of applique to literally paste her family album onto an enduring fabric. This system is quite common in African tribes as well as continuing on to early American traditions. It’s a lasting strategy to record family events corresponding to birth, marriage, geographical location, and spiritual dedication. On the left is a quilt made in 1938 that display’s the same type of cultural information in regards to the creator’s family and plantation life.
Charms are used in many African and African American religious societies. They’re created by a priest or conjure woman for the precise needs of its user. Charms can heal or ward off evil spirits. The quilt above, with its applique men, could be used similarly to the African American Vodun dolls — safe guarding the user from evil spirits of a selected threat.