Object Record

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Collection African Art Collection
Object Name Textile
Other Name Applique Cloth
Catalog Number 1976.1.1
Accession Number 1976.1
Description Large, rectangular black cotton fabric. Decorated with colorful appliqued shapes of a large bird in center with fanned tail feathers. To right, several small shapes including a fish and mortor and pestle. Background is black with green and red edges.

The appliqued cloths made by the Fon of Benin, West Africa are rectangular cloths that are commonly used as wall hangings or pillow covers. They are usually decorated with objects, animals, and people. Dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, the cloths were originally hung in the Fon Courts as a symbol of high power and displayed messages of violence, death, wealth, and power. Today, the messages have changed and the applique cloths of the Fon depict mostly scenes of hunting of funerary ceremonies.

This cloth is an example of both a narrative and an appliqué cloth which is a motif of a bird, the symbol of Gangnihessou (1600-1620), the King of Allada and the older brother of the first Fon king of Dahomey. The bird and drum are royal symbols and mean: "The bird spoke so loud that the drum sounded" or "The bird, called Saswé, is known for its greediness. Just like the prince, it will leave nothing to others."
People Fon
Subjects Africa--Social life and customs.
Textile art