Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
Among the oldest handcraft products of North Africa are woven, knotted, and embroidered textiles (flat woven fabrics, knotted carpets, clothing) primarily made of wool and hair from sheep, goats, or camels. Those products have great importance, beyond their practical purpose, as a communicative and artistic medium. Changes and re-evaluations of the textile from a utilitarian object with potent pre-Islamic and Islamic symbolism towards a modern abstract art object reveal centuries of cultural transfer between the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe on the one hand, and between North and West Africa on the other. At the same time, this has always been accompanied by reflection on, as well as adherence to and assertion of, indigenous ideas, values, and (above all, magically or religiously encoded) cultural statements and messages. It is precisely the purposeful, market-independent rural textile production that characterizes the textile world of the Maghreb as divers and unmistakably distinctive. In its colorful ornamental design, this textile world has not closed itself off from new “immigrated” forms and concepts but has found its own creations and interpretations. On the basis of the Ethnographic collections in Dresden and Leipzig, which are part of the Staatliche Kunstammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections), it is possible to discern both continuity continuity and change in North African textile fabrics, which are still in great demand, and to recognize, these works of art as part of a complex transcultural process.