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Man's Hat (ashetu) (Cameroon), mid- to late 20th century
Hat Hair
The spiky projections on each side of the ashetu hat reflect the tufted hairstyles once worn by high-ranking men, frequently represented in sculpture. They can also be interpreted as physical manifestations of the inner head, considered to be the center of intelligence and spirituality. The ashetu hat is worn by the Fon or king, at...
Pelete Bite Wrapper, 1930s
Making is Un-doing
The island group occupied by the Kalabari people is located in the Niger River delta. This strategic position brought them into contact with traders and travelers from many African and non-African cultures over a period of centuries. Their dress traditions are marked by an eclectic and cosmopolitan combination of cultural references. [1] Kalabari cut-thread cloth...
Adinkra Ceremonial Wrapper (Ghana), mid-20th century
Symbol and Meaning
Adinkra wrappers are traditionally worn for funerals. Their many symbols are printed from individually carved stamps, and the selection of symbols and their placement on the gridded cloth are considered a sort of communication from the living to the ancestors. Hundreds of unique symbols have been identified, but their meanings are not easily de-coded. Some...
Man's Cap (laket) (Democratic Republic of the Congo), late 19th–early 20th century
Full Dress Uniform
If you think pompoms are whimsical, think again. This photograph, from the remarkable Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives at the National Museum of African Art, shows titled soldiers known as iyol, who have earned the exclusive right to wear pompoms on their hats. [1] Elisofon, the famously colorful American photojournalist and filmmaker, traveled extensively around Africa...
Kente Prestige Cloth (Ghana), early to mid-20th century
Juneteenth (Emancipation Day)
Kente cloth is recognized around the world as a symbol of African identity and pride. But these colorful and majestic cloths were originally worn exclusively by members of the powerful ruling court of the Asante. A large community of artisans work in the village of Bonwire in the service of the royals to create the...
A large monument in the shape of a globe suspended above sculptural clouds
A Star-Studded Tour of France
In the aftermath of the French Revolution, many public squares required new monuments that celebrated Revolutionary ideals instead of the might of the fallen monarchy. Several fascinating proposals followed including a suggestion by Jacques-Louis David who suggested  in 1793 that a large statue of Hercules be erected on  Place de Pont-Neuf  with each limb of...
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Ilonka’s Cinderella
Cinderella is one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time and has been illustrated on wallpaper by numerous designers. This rendition was created by Ilonka Karasz, designer, illustrator, and one of the premiere women industrial designers. Ilonka began designing wallpaper in 1948 and worked almost exclusively for Katzenbach & Warren. As seen in...
Kauffer Spring
Anatomy of the Design Process
Many graphic designers have explored the graphic possibilities of lithography by combining it with photography. Among those was E. McKnight Kauffer, an American designer who moved to London just before the First World War and stayed until the advent of the second. Kauffer often combined illustration with halftone reproductions of photographic elements, and he remained committed...
mccarty
Women’s Action is Women’s Power
Founded in 1992, the Women’s Action Coalition (WAC) staged public demonstrations or “actions” to raise the visibility of women in art, culture, and society. The organization was founded in response to the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill congressional hearings, which riveted national attention on sexual harassment. Many women in New York’s creative community took part in WAC,...