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Sold Archive: African & Asian Textiles

Kpoikpoi (prestige hanging)
Sierra Leonean (Mende people), early 20th century
13 ft 2 in. x 63 in. (335.28 x 160 cm)

Sierra Leonean cloths of prodigious lengths, known as kpoikpoi, were hung on important occasions such as state ceremonies and funerals as striking displays of wealth and social position, and were also used as burial wrappings and as dowries. These very large strip-woven cotton cloths required specialized production—they were typically commissioned for an event and weavers were sometimes retained by chiefs. This kpoikpoi is composed of strips over thirteen feet long, and lengths of up to thirty feet have been recorded. In 1924, the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley featured a Sierra Leonean Pavilion where Western audiences had the opportunity to view examples of traditional cloths like kpoikpoi as well as demonstrations of weavers at work.

Published in the 2005 Cora Ginsburg catalogue.

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