Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Textile Museum of Canada

Last weekend I attended the 40th Reunion of my graduation from the Wellesley Hospital School of Nursing, in the Toronto area. I was so glad I decided to go. We spent two years living in residence together, and a third year living in apartments that we shared, while we worked for the hospital. Lots of memories, and lots of life lived since then. And then I had the added treat of spending a couple of days with my oldest friend from high school. And as a special treat, I managed to fit in my first visit to the Textile Museum of Canada, located in downtown Toronto. While fairly small, the exhibits were magnificent. "Natural Resources" was of particular interest to me, with many examples of African textiles. The first example is of Tanzanian barkcloth, made from the bark of fig trees, and then painted with natural pigments. The variety of triangle shapes seen here - painted "improvisationally" - suggest quilt patterns to me.
This second piece is part of a dance skirt made in the Congo, and is over a hundred years old. Again there are dense triangles in the border, as well as cowry shells and embroidery with natural fibres adding decorative elements.
This hat also comes from the Congo, and would have been worn by a lesser official, signified by the guinea fowl feathers. Higher officials would have worn hats decorated with eagle feathers.
This is just one of the beaded necklaces on exhibit, this one coming from South Africa. It is a Zulu design, in which the colours all have significance - white for purity, blue for fertility, and black for darkness.
This last piece is a ceremonial dance skirt from Congo, on which abstract symbols are appliqued on a raffia wrap-around for women. I wish I knew what the shapes signify. I'll post a few more photos in the days to come, but this gives you an idea of the rich collections at the museum. And they have a terrific website for anyone who's interested - especially wonderful for those of us who rarely if ever get to go to Toronto -

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