Images of Commemorative Fabrics from Africa

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Commemorative Fabrics from Africa is a collection of machine-made commemorative textiles from various African countries. This collection provides researchers access to digitized fabrics that are printed with images and text documenting events and individuals of historical, political, religious, economic, educational, and sociological significance to African societies. Throughout the continent, fabric serves multiple functions in people’s daily lives. It is used for clothing, shelter, storage, and packing material. The type of African fabric found in this collection also serves as a communication device. When used as a textual and visual document, the fabric becomes a vehicle to commemorate an event or to celebrate a person’s life or achievement. One does not need to know how to read in order to understand the messages found in these textiles. In societies where a large portion of the population cannot read, the visual elements enable everyone to share in the reception and transmission of the message that is being conveyed. In this way, the fabric also serves to preserve historical narratives that are important to the community. The pieces in this collection were graciously donated by UW faculty, staff, students, alumni, and other individuals outside the UW.