Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


Tibeb in this presentation refers to the decoration or pattern which is handwoven with supplementary weft into the border of the shamma (or shemma) worn by women and men in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The shamma traditionally was worn by the Christian populations of the northern and central highlands. Today one can find cloth with the woven tibeb in most markets. There is no imported textile sold in Ethiopia today that takes the place of these valued textiles. Ethiopian artist Maitre Afewerk Tekle has captured the special feeling among Ethiopians for the fine cotton shamma in his painting "Mother Ethiopia" painted in 1963. The woven multicolored tibeb is a recent addition to an ancient way of dressing. It appeared at the time of Emperor Menilek II who took power in 1898 establishing his capital in Addis Ababa. Members of the aristocracy wore shamma with a single color red tilet border that may be the precursor to the tibeb.

Weavers from the Dorze ethnic group in the highlands of southwestern Ethiopia settled in the Shiro Meda area of Addis Ababa where they gained their reputation as the most skilled weavers of the tibeb by the early 1900s. They were and are not the only weavers of the tibeb. Dorze people were traditional weavers of the bulluko or dunguze, heavier textiles requiring strength and stamina to weave. s Other textiles featuring the woven tibeb are the nettela, kutta, gabi, anguet lib's and the ecclesiastical dress with dirib tibeb worn by priests of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian church. Matching embroidery at the neck or on the edge of the sleeves often complements the woven tibeb. However, if the border itself is embroidered it is called tilf tibeb. The bulluko usually features a red tilet border called jano. Shamma Komblete is the name ofthe dress for women including a nettela and kamis with matching tibeb.