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“Hand painted mannequins advertise merchandise at cloth vendor’s stall at Central Market, Kumasi, Ghana.”
“Hand painted mannequins advertise merchandise at cloth vendor’s stall at Central Market, Kumasi, Ghana.”

Across Africa, the colorful designs on locally printed fabrics are more than decorative, they often commemorate events and communities. On Wednesday evening November 12th, the Friends of the UW-Madison Libraries invite you to the Central Library (Madison Public Library), 201 West Mifflin St., for a talk on African Print Cloth from 6:00-8:00 p.m.  Librarian Emilie Songolo and Professor Mary Hark will be taking part in a lively discussion and demonstration of African print cloth informed by their personal experiences and research in Sub-Saharan Africa. This event will include a discussion, a display of African print textiles, as well as a demonstration on how to wrap garments and headdresses. We encourage you to wear your own African textiles to the event!  Light refreshments will be provided.

Commemorative fabrics can be found all across Africa, and serve as much more than clothing. With their vibrant colors and patterns they act as a means for communication to call attention to and celebrate people, political events, religious and educational groups, and much more. The fabric becomes a vehicle for praising an achievement or honoring an event. It also allows the wearers to preserve the important historical narrative of their community.

Emilie Songolo, African Studies Librarian at University of Wisconsin-Madison, grew up in Cameroon surrounded by commemorative textiles, homemade batik, and other richly patterned and beautifully colored fabrics. From a young age she was captivated by the messages of the fabrics and how they were understood by everyone, regardless of their formal literacy skills. The fabric is able to tell as story that all community members can identify with. She is curating a growing collection of commemorative fabrics from various African countries.

Professor Mary Hark of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Design Studies department is a visual artist who had the opportunity to observe firsthand the textile culture of Ghana. She was able to immerse herself in a culture where cloth is fully understood and integrated into all aspects of life. Hark studied the Adinkra funeral cloth tradition, spend time with vendors in Kumasi Central Market, as well as in kente workshops.

The Friends of the UW-Madison Libraries invite you to join them for this discussion and display of print cloths. We encourage you to wear your own African textiles to the event.  “Inside Out/Outside In: African Print Cloth” is free and open to the public, it will be held November 12th, 6:00-8:00 p.m. in 301 Central Library (Madison Public Library) at 201 N Mifflin. For more information please visit our website, email us at friends@library.wisc.edu or call (608) 265-2505.