Lubaina Himid-Lost Threads: What is African Cloth and Whose Identity?

British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA

A Tanzanian-born, Preston-based artist, curator, and cultural activist, Himid’s work aims to ‘fill in the gaps of history’, giving representation to marginalised histories and to what was previously invisible or silenced. Significantly, Himid’s art reinserts black narratives into the forefront of cultural practice and conversation. In her own words, the artist’s practice is the valorisation of ‘the contribution black people have made to cultural life in Europe for the past several hundred years.’ Himid’s immersive work invites engagement and dialogue with an audience. Her work doesn’t shy away from serious subject matters – the dark legacies of empire, colonialism, and slavery. She is particularly interested in the history of textiles in both the East African and British contexts – how the making of clothing is loaded with the histories of industrialisation, female labour, migration, and globalisation. https://artuk.org/discover/stories/lubaina-himid-celebrating-the-history-of-black-creativity

British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA

This narrative continued to be investigated and communicated by Himid within this inspirational installation, of being so completely engulfed by the cloth, pattern, colour, and new understandings, which were integrated concerning the appropriation of African identity. Hundreds of metres of cascading printed fabrics enveloped the structure of Gawthorpe Hall’s Great Barn, 400 metres of Dutch Wax fabric reflected the movement of oceans and rivers that have been used to transport cotton across the planet and over centuries. Waterways historically carried raw cotton, spun yarn, and woven textiles from continent to continent, as well as enslaved people from Africa to pick raw cotton in the southern states of America or workers who migrated from South Asia to operate looms here in East Lancashire. In this major new installation, Turner-prize winning artist, Lubaina Himid, continues her life-long exploration into the making of clothing and histories of colonisation, female labour, migration, and globalisation. Although recognised as ‘African’ cloth, these textiles have a complex lineage and identity that reflects an historic and continuing flow of labour, trade, and money. https://britishtextilebiennial.co.uk/


The vibrantly coloured and intricately patterned fabric in the installation dominates West African markets and is now globally recognised as “African” although the cloth was originally forged by Dutch colonial companies attempting to mechanically reproduce handmade Javanese batik cloth in Holland. When this failed to take off in Southeast Asia, Dutch traders began to sell the cloth in West African markets. The patterns were modified to fit local tastes and quickly became popular, ultimately becoming an essential everyday consumer good. That said, most Dutch designs which are available today within African markets are low-cost reproductions made in China, such as the fabric used in Lost Threads which exposes the role of colonisation in the formation of cultural stereotypes.

British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA. Gawthorpe Hall and the Great Barn are owned by the National Trust. The Hall is managed by Lancashire County Council.
British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA
British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA
British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA
British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA
British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA
British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA
British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA
British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA
British Textile Biennial 2021- Lubaina Himid “Lost Threads” The Great Barn, Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley Rd, Padiham, Burnley BB12 8UA

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