Author: Diedrick Brackens
September is New York Textile Month! In celebration, members of the Textile Society of America will author Object of the Day for the month. A non-profit professional organization of scholars, educators, and artists in the field of textiles, TSA provides an international forum for the exchange and dissemination of information about textiles worldwide.
Aswan, a city in Egypt, is also the name of the 2015 upholstery fabric created by architect David Adjaye in collaboration with Knoll Textiles. The cloth is a dazzle of geometric abstraction. Fuzzy hatches of green, yellow, orange, and black run horizontally across the fabric’s surface in regular columns. The overall effect is an atmospheric haze, as if observing a textile at a great distance, or waiting for an image to load on a computer screen. Adjaye’s composition is inspired by the strip weaving traditions of Ghana. Aswan mimics the compositional language of Kente cloth, the name by which the strip weaving tradition is most commonly known. Kente is woven as long narrow strips that are sewn together to create large swaths of fabric to wrap oneself in. These textiles have gained popularity with Black people around the world as a marker of African heritage. In addition to strip weaving the work also brings to mind the immense and lyrical map paintings of British artist Frank Bowling. Both artists display an interest in collision of place and history and Aswan employs a similar visual language to obscure information as in Bowling’s paintings. The textile Adjaye has created conjures a phantasmic Africa. There is a sense of an intangible ideal of a place both familiar yet just beyond one’s grasp.
Aswan. Harare. Meroe. Lagos. Kampala. Kumasi.
These are names of cities dotting the continent, and also lending their names to fabrics in the Adjaye Collection for Knoll Textiles. All the designs in the collection draw inspiration from objects and textile traditions throughout Africa. However, it is Aswan in particular that feels very diasporic. The cloth has a strong relationship to geography and cultural coding. Aswan is named for an Egyptian city, while evincing a West African aesthetic. It is a beautiful analogy for the way Africans of the diaspora engage with the motherland, combining this and that and looking towards home, at a great distance.
Diedrick Brackens is a Los Angeles-based weaver whose work incorporates techniques drawn from European tapestries, West African weavings, and American quilting. Brackens has been included in exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Museum, the Ulrich Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of Californian Art, and Steve Turner Gallery. He is an Assistant Professor of Fiber Art at Califor-nia State University, Long Beach.