Friday, March 13, 2009

A night at the Met

Tonight I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my friends Josie and Allison. We went to see a new exhibit of African textiles (mostly North and West Africa) and then go to a food tasting event that served "African inspired" courses. All quite delicious and nothing like the food I ate in Zambia. No nshima, no village chicken. One course was Zimbabwean collard greens, which were quite good and tasted authentic, but the red snapper on top, although muy delicioso, didn't seem very African to me.

There was a beautiful exhibit of chetenge fabric on small,brightly painted squares on one wall and the familiar, vibrant colors brought me right back to the small wooden shacks where these same fabrics were bought and sold in 1-3-6 meter units. You'd barter and bargain and finally walk away laden with beautiful fabrics meant to be worn, to be embodied. That is the beauty of these textiles: they are meant to move. To change in the wind; to take on new meaning as they follow the curve of a hip or drape over shoulders or are wound around the head. It is three-dimensional, moving art. Magnificent.

It was lovely and strange to see all of these very familiar fabrics on display in an art museum. These fabrics were a part of every day life- in the market, at church, at work, in the homes of the wealthy and in huts in the poorest villages. I danced with these fabrics wrapped around my waist, watched women dry dishes with this colorful cloth, watched it become a bag for groceries or a carrier for babies.

Here are some of my own chetenge pictures. Zambian textiles on display. Aren't these women lovely?!

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