There is hardly any record on African American weavers as weaving was most common among white men. African American quilting traditions were very common around the time of the four civilizations of Central and West Africa. These were: the Mande-speaking peoples; the Yoruba and Fon peoples; the Ejagham peoples; and the Kongo peoples. Textiles were traded throughout Central America, the Caribbean and South America. Like most weaves, African American textiles were made by men. However, weaving traditions were passed on to women when slavery started in the United States.
Colors and shapes were seen important aspect of African woven textiles as they were an expression of what these cultures were going through at the time. For example, to express the devastation of tribes and war large shapes and colors were used as seen in the picture below.
Wahlman, page 33.
The pine cone quilt of triangles was most popular among Southern African Americans. Triangle shapes were used to create a unique art piece. Common among African textiles was also the lack of a unique pattern. Many African slaves who wanted to be free wove random shapes onto a sheet of fabric to express their desire for freedom. Another goal of weaving random shapes onto the fabric was to eventually make a quilt composed of several different woven fabrics in one. An example of such art is shown in the picture below.
Wahlman, page 41.
One can just admire in awe the creativity and intricacy of weaves and quilts that seem to incorporate a mixture of different cultures through the display of shapes, colors and images; all expressed on a “simple” sheet of fabric. Although the history of African American weavers and quilters seems hidden, these colored faces are reflected in African American quilts and are not forgotten.
“AFRICAN AMERICAN QUILTING TRADITIONS.” AFRICAN AMERICAN QUILTING TRADITIONS. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug97/quilt/atrads.html>
Breneman, Judy Anne. “African American Quilting: A Long Rich Heritage.” African American Quilting From Slavery to the Present. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://www.womenfolk.com/quilting_history/afam.htm>.
Signs and Symbols: African Images in African-American Quilts – Maude Southwell Wahlman, Penguin: 1993