Date of this Version
In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000
The Gouro people of Cote d'Ivoire are renowned weavers in the memories of Ivoirians. They are acknowledged as the premiere weavers of the past who possibly taught the premiere weavers of the present, the Baulé, their craft. Cloth production and trade were major industries among the Gouro from possibly as early as the 15th century until the late 1950s and locally produced cloth was crucial in many social and cultural situations. Weaving continues today but has withered away among the Gouro while it has thrived among the Baule and other ethnic groups in the same country. In this paper I will discuss the changes through time that led to the present state of the local industry and will relate those changes to changes in the cloth actually produced. In visual terms I ask how the most valued cloth in a small scale society went from a hand spun and woven cotton indigo dyed, striped cloth with a few simple supplementary weft motifs to an elaborately decorated cloth made from commercially spun cotton and brightly colored acrylic yams and in socio-economic terms how does a society go from a weaver or weavers in every household to a just few old men weaving.