Silk in Africa

April 27, 2010


This is one in a series of fabric folios published by the British Museum and it is a wonderful introduction to African silk weaving and embroidery. The informative text, written by Christopher Spring and Julie Hudson, divides the African continent into five geographic areas: North Africa, Ethiopia, West Africa-Nigeria, Ghana and Madagascar. The authors pack in lots of information about the history, traditions and current (as of 2002) state of textile production in these regions. For example, I learned that while silk weaving in North Africa is essentially a man’s activity, embroidery is a woman’s art. I also learned that silk has played an important part in the social and religious life of Ethiopians since the 4th century and that in the early Islamic society of West Africa gifts of clothing were presented to officials or member of the court to reward service and loyalty. Added to this interesting mix of historical and cultural reporting are wonderful full color photographs of over 30 pieces from the British Museum’s collection of African embroideries. What a fantastic overview of African silk textiles!

This book, as well as others in the series, is available for purchase from the usual on-line retailers including You can also order directly from the museum book shop at