A Quilt and Textile Exhibition curated by Magie Relph for The Quilt Museum and Gallery in York, 10 July to 16 October 2010
African Skies” is just where textile artist, African fabric hunter and Quilters’
Guild member Magie Relph spends a great deal of her time.
years she spends up to eight weeks ‘on the road’ in Africa. In the heat and the sun and the dust, she
rides crowded buses, even more crowded and decrepit ‘tro-tros’ (shared
long-distance minibuses) and the occasional horse-drawn cart, as she researches
and buys African textiles.
African Odyssey III by Janice Gunner, UK. This quilt was inspired by a
present from Magie Relph - a piece of Indigo and kola nut fabric with a large
tied circular motif in the centre. I just had to use it in a quilt, but I needed more fabrics to go with it. Another collection was born! Machine pieced, hand and machine quilted. Cotton and polyester
wadding. Cotton, rayon invisible and metallic threads. 121 x 100 cm
of this fabric she keeps for her private collection and to use in her work as a
quilter. The remainder, she sells to
other textile artists and quilters through her small fair trade business – The
African Fabric Shop.
exhibition “Under African Skies” marks a very approximate decade of Magie’s
“accidential business”. It is her way of
saying “thank you” to the small-scale artisan producers she works with in
Africa and to the many UK textile artists who have been inspired by their
fabrics and textile traditions.
exhibition features the creative work of several of Maggie’s customers – more
friends, really, and their work is set out in the context of the fabrics
themselves, with photographs and information panels about the fabrics, their
makers and where they come from.
significant contributor to the exhibition is Janice Gunner, a well-known
textile artist, teacher and author. A
past-president of The Quilters’ Guild, Janice has used Magie’s African fabrics
extensively, especially in her African Odyssey series of quilts.
Odyssey III’, which Janice has graciously loaned to the Quilt
Museum for this celebratory
exhibition, features Kola nut and Indigo, an increasingly rare type of
hand-dyed fabric from The Gambia in West Africa.
buys this fabric directly from the dyer who creates it, Musa Jaiteh, at his
compound in the village of Sukuta. Magie’s relationship with Musa says a lot
about how she feels about Africa, its
textiles, and its people.
Under African Skies: Musa's Quilt by Magie Relph, UK. Reflecting the colour of a dark, moody African sky rumbling away, ready to release the rains and feed the parched earth. In Africa many people dream of rain. It brings with it the excitement of new life. I've nicknamed this piece
‘Musa's Quilt’ because all the fabrics in it were hand-dyed by my friend Musa
in The Gambia. Wall hanging. Machine pieced and quilted. 140 x 95 cm
time I visit Musa,” she says, “I learn a little bit more about his art and life
in The Gambia. It’s a very rewarding
experience and one of the reasons I am continually drawn back to Africa and Musa's fabrics.”
Hewitt, a Bristol-based textile artist, has been inspired by another African
textile tradition – hand-woven strip cloth from Mali
in West Africa. When she first saw 60 metre rolls of this
unique cloth on Magie’s stall, she didn’t know what she would do with it, but
she had to have it.
content with the ordinary, Liz started experimenting with dyeing, stitching and
embellishing techniques. As she worked from
one seemingly mad idea to the next, a theme emerged, which eventually became “STRIP:joint”,
a solo-exhibition at The Festival of Quilts 2009.
African Skies” includes the centre piece from that exhibition – a compelling
arrangement of dyed and embellished cotton strips called “Forest of Cloth”. Again, the work of the artist is supported by
photographs and information panels about the textile Liz has used in her work.
Ashanti Tales: The Serpent by Magie Relph, UK. Reflecting the colour of a
dark, moody African sky rumbling away, ready to release the rains. The serpent image was my inspiration and starting point. Often referred to in folk tales, serpents are an important part of Ashanti life. They are both respected and avoided! Wall hanging. Machine pieced and quilted. 105 x 82 cm.
up the exhibition, Magie Relph says, “Some of these textiles represent
traditions that stretch back centuries. Others,
like the wax prints of Manchester, are important
elements of Britain’s
textile and industrial heritage, designing and manufacturing fabrics for export
to what was then The Empire. With ‘Under
African Skies’, I am celebrating the fabrics themselves, their heritage, and
the many UK artists who are using them today to break new ground in textile