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Travel Tip: Art and Archaeology in United States
Gifts & Blessings

Gifts & Blessings: The Textile Arts of Madagascar
WASHINGTON, D.C.  •  Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art  •  Ongoing
Madagascar--an island nation located off the southeast coast of Africa--has a spectacular tradition of handwoven cloths, known as lamba. For the Malagasy, cloth holds many metaphors for life. Its mention in proverbs, songs and traditional oration demonstrates that it is more than just an important economic, material good. Cloth is the material manifestation of hasina, a mystical, sacred force that strengthens human relationships.

As an offering to a bride and encircling a newly married couple, it signifies love and commitment. As a gift to foreign leaders, it demonstrates friendship and honor. Wrapped around the body of the deceased or draped over a coffin, it symbolizes respect and connection to ancestors. Worn as a garment, it conveys an individual's identity. Cloth communicates power, authority, respect, personality, friendship and love as well as invites blessings.

The show features a comprehensive collection of textiles, including silk and cotton wrappers, burial shrouds, marriage cloths, fashions and textile art, and two important cloths given as diplomatic gifts to President Grover Cleveland in 1886 by Malagasy Queen Ranavalona III.

Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art Web Site

Contact: Tel: (1) 202 357 46 00

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