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Book Review: Silk in Africa
by Chris Spring & Julie Hudson

By Antoine du Rocher

NEW YORK, 4 December 2002óWith over 100 colour illustrations, this marvellous little book documents silk textile and embroidery traditions in Africa. Authors Chris Spring and Julie Hudson, both curators in the Department of Ethnography of The British Musuem, point out that silk in Africa has always been associated with prestige, status, royalty and aristocracy, deities and ancestors. They not only explore the obvious aesthetic value of over thirty pieces from the British Museum's collection, but also document the evolution of silk-weaving traditions and technical achievements in Africa from pre-colonial times through the post-independence period. The book chronicles how styles evolve, die off and are revived in response to not only economic but also political and social changes connected to the colonial period.

Those whose knowledge of African textiles begins and ends at kente cloth will learn much from this elegant volume. The stunning and diverse fabrics and articles of clothing represented here range from wraps worn by the Asante (Ghana) and a superb man's gown of honour from 19th century Nigeria, to gold-encrusted silk gowns from Ethiopia, and a multicouloured burial shroud from Madagascar.

Silk in Africa is part of the "Fabric Folios" series published by the University of Washington, a series which also includes Printed and Dyed Textiles from Africa, Embroidery from India and Pakistan, Textiles from Guatemala, Textiles from Mexico and Miao Textiles from China. Any of these would make a fine holiday gift, for those interested in ethnography, history and weaving technology, as well as aesthetics or style.

Silk in Africa by Chris Spring & Julie Hudson

Silk in Africa
By Chris Spring & Julie Hudson

University of Washington Press, Seattle; August 2002; 88 pages, 100 colour illustrations
ISBN: 0-295 982359

Antoine du Rocher is a French cultural journalist and writer based in New York. He is also a member of the editorial board of


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