20 June 2018

Exhibition, Fabric Africa: Stories told through textiles. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, 30 June—19 May 2019

An insight into the forthcoming exhibition by curator Lisa Graves.

The exhibition FabricAfrica: Stories told through textiles has been  over a year in the planning and on June 30th it will open to the public at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.   For me the textiles have always been a window into the huge variety and diversity of countries, people and ways of looking at the world that Africa can offer.   Each item of clothing or individual cloth could tell many stories.  So it was obvious that this exhibition would focus on highlighting rather than being comprehensive and selecting rather than trying to explore everything that this vast subject could offer.

Tunic from Cameroon Grasslands.
 Empire and Commonwealth collection 
 (c) Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
The selection I made was also based on trying to get as wide a geographical range of countries aspossible based on what our collections could offer.  There is a bias towards sub-Saharan countries, and those in West Africa in particular, but in future it would be great to add to our holdings from countries such as Somalia, Egypt or Ethiopia.  We have recently acquired contemporary textiles from Kenya, and for this exhibition have been lucky enough to loan not one, but two wedding dresses from a local, Kenyan- born, designer, Audrey Migot.

Audrey Migot in her wedding dress (c) Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

We made contact with Audrey, along with three other individuals, through a call-out on social media who were happy to share their thoughts on African textiles.  We have recorded their reactions to each of the exhibition themes – Status, Communication, Exchange and Fashion – which you’ll be able to listen to in the gallery.  We hope to encourage more people to share their personal stories around working with, owning, making or wearing textiles from Africa through more social media call-outs on Twitter and Instagram in the coming months.

Throughout the ten months or so the exhibition will be up we have planned a series of events.  These include a practical day school for adults, a children’s Arts Award workshop, as well as one aimed at Brownies, Guides, Cubs and Scouts groups and other family events for Black History Month in October and November.  One of these will be a fashion show showcasing the work of local African and African Diaspora designers and students.  We hope to be running a design competition associated with this event taking inspiration from the pieces in the exhibition as well as from the vibrant contemporary fashion scenes Africa has to offer.

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