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11/18 Lecture Following the Flow of Indigo in Africa

Following the Flow of Indigo in Africa

Presented by Pamela McClusky Saturday, November 10, 2018, 10 am Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum

Admission: Free for current members of the TAC; $5 for students and members of FAMSF; $10 General Admission

For those who crave indigo, a journey to Africa is recommended. Indigo has been adapted to multiple uses across many countries, as this virtual tour of places where this dye has had a pronounced impact will reveal.

The journey will start in ancient Egypt, to see a kerchief used by King Tutankhamun that retains the deep hue of a majestic aesthetic. Moving southwest, we’ll follow the path of camels to the Tuareg, or the Blue People, as their clothes and skin are saturated with indigo. From there, a caravan will lead us to Kano, Nigeria which is renowned for its distinctive dedication to dye pits that are hundreds of years old and still in active use today. Moving south, we’ll aim for Abeokuta to investigate the unique transformation of white cloth shipped to Nigeria by British colonists. How the women of this city invented a flourishing vocabulary of designs filled with proverbs, symbols and meanings is an epic chapter of textile history in the 20th century.

From there, we’ll go to visit the Fon, or King of the Kom, in the Cameroon Highlands. Whenever he presides over visits and court ceremonies, his throne room is never complete without a cloth filled with stitched resist. Towards the end of the journey, we’ll check in on the skilled incorporation of indigo dyed threads in the kente and ewe cloths of Ghana and Togo. As a grand finale for the tour, stops will be made in Bamako, Mali and Tunis, Tunisia to visit the studios of two artists- Aboubacar Fofane and Rachid Koriachi, whose use of indigo leads to visions of architectural grandeur.

Pamela McClusky is Curator of African and Oceanic Art at the Seattle Art Museum. She established a department for the Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Seattle Art Museum in the 1980s. It became the museum’s fastest growing department, receiving several significant collections. To honor the African holdings, she led a team of artists, scholars, and advisors to create a national tour, publication and web resource, Long Steps Never Broke a Back, in 2002-4.

Since then, she has collaborated on many special exhibitions such as Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth, and Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise. In charge of multiple galleries of African and Oceanic art, her rotations on view in Seattle now include Lessons from the Institute of Empathy (featuring the art of Saya Woolfalk), Walkabout: The Paintings of Dorothy Napangardi, and In This Imperfect Present Moment (featuring contemporary art from South Africa). In 2012, she led an effort to place Australian art in the permanent galleries and oversaw an exhibition Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art which is still touring the US. Recently, Pamela curated a national tour of Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, combining masks of the past with masquerading of the present, and a museum’s collection exhibition of Mood Indigo: Textiles from Around the World.


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