DOYLESTOWN – In Africa‚ fabrics talk. And what they have to say isn’t always pleasant.
“Men are never grateful‚” says one popular fabric from a region where women’s rights are few but their chores endless.
With a vocabulary of signs and pictures‚ Sub-Saharan textiles convey a wide range of meanings‚ according to Cozy Bendesky‚ who ran her own textile business and has lectured on fabric and surface design for nearly a decade.
“There are at least 700 symbols that are constantly used‚” in traditional fabrics from Ghana‚ Cote D’Ivoire and other countries‚ Bendesky said Sunday at a lecture at the Mercer Museum‚ one of several given for Black History Month.
Bendesky’s focus‚ however‚ was on cloth.
The meanings of imported fabrics are sometimes lost in translation. The innocuous-looking ungrateful man fabric was unknowingly copied and used to make boxer shorts‚ Bendesky said.
“Of all the people to give the fabric to‚ you would think men are not the ones‚” she said.
Some patterns are just made to look good.
Based on fish hooks‚ and combs‚ seeds and bicycle links‚ the fabrics are a visual depiction of the lives of their creators.
That’s an idea that Bendesky has incorporated into some of her own fabrics.
Stamping with forks and potato mashers‚ Bendesky has replicated a number of traditional pattern creation techniques.
After her lecture‚ she led participants in making a few patterns of their own.
Using Ghanain Adinkra stamps‚ Carol Giannini put together a pattern with “good fortune” and “I give you my heart” stamps. “This has a lot of Valentine’s potential‚” Bendesky said.
The next Black History Month lecture at the Mercer Museum will be held Feb. 27 at 2 p.m. in the Elkins Gallery. Leonard W. Miller of Washington Crossing will discuss his experiences as a black racing pioneer and the book he’s written: “Silent Thunder: Breaking Through Cultural‚ Racial and Class Barriers in Motorsports.”
The lecture is free with museum admission. For more information‚ go to www.mercermuseum.org.