Kangas are printed cotton fabrics worn by women in East Africa since the 18th century. Kangas are characterized by a distinctive three-element design: a decorative border; a central panel with recurring motifs; and an inscription. The designs embrace motifs from a global range of decorative traditions, with inscriptions including traditional Swahili proverbs, political slogans, and public information messages.
In this talk, John Ryle discusses kangas and the online archive Textiles That Talk: an open-access collection of high resolution images and metadata—a live catalogue raisonée of kangas. Explore Textiles that Talk here.
John Ryle is Legrand Ramsey Professor of Anthropology at Bard College, New York. He is cofounder of the Rift Valley Institute, a research and public information organization working in Eastern and Central Africa since 2001, and was Executive Director of the Institute until 2017.
He is coeditor of The Sudan Handbook (2011) and a contributor to periodicals including the London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and Granta. He was formerly a columnist for the Guardian and an editor at The Times Literary Supplement.
Co-sponsored by the Fowler Textile Council.
John Ryle. Photograph by Trupti Shah, 2014.
World on the Horizon explores Swahili arts as objects of mobility, outcomes of encounter, and as products of trade and imperialism. Works from different regions and time periods come together in this exhibition to reveal the movement of artistic forms, motifs, and preferences, and to reflect the changing meanings they may carry during the course of their life histories.
Parking available in UCLA Lot 4, 398 Westwood Plaza, directly off Sunset Blvd | $12/day. Rideshare drop-off 305 Royce Drive.