Date of this Version
Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, (2004).
The concept of cultural authentication was first introduced to analyze the check and plaid textile called Indian madras used by the Kalabari people of the Niger Delta of Nigeria to produce a design by subtraction on the cloth which they subsequently call pelete bite (Erekosima, 1979; Erekosima and Eicher, 1981). Although the Kalabari are part of a much larger group of Niger Delta peoples, this cut-thread cloth is original and peculiar to them. They depend on the supply of madras from India to produce pelete bite to wear as men’s and women’s wrappers, to cover the face of a masquerader, and to dress the funeral bed of a female elder.
Indian suppliers of madras to the Kalabari became aware of the cut-thread designs of the Kalabari and sometime in the 1980s began to have their weavers produce madras that had the appearance of cut-thread cloth for their Kalabari customers. These textiles were sold successfully to the Kalabari who called them “machinecut” pelete bite, but who preferred the more expensive hand-cut examples if they could afford them. In 2003, a twist in the cultural authentication process occurred when a contemporary Indian textile designer used the cutthread design as inspiration for handwoven silk scarves for a fashion market in both India and the United States, providing a ping-pong example of cultural authentication in which the cut-thread design originally created by the Kalabari on Indian cotton madras in Nigeria becomes culturally authenticated in India on silk for a global market.