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Release: Immediate

Exhibition of African fabrics opens at UI Museum of Art

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- "Technique and Inspiration," a collection of textiles gathered from every region of Africa, will be on display at the University of Iowa Museum of Art Aug. 23 through Nov. 2.

The exhibition, which is drawn primarily from the museum's permanent collection, will be open to the public free of charge.

Fabrics play an important role in many African cultures, appearing in religious, political and economic contexts. Written proverbs may be displayed on clothing, and many designs employ a system of symbols similar to written language to convey mythological, historical or proverbial information.

The pieces in the exhibition illustrate a wide range of media and techniques used in the production of African textiles, including embroidery, applique and beadwork. Dyeing techniques, including tie-dying and the use of a variety of pigments made from plant materials, are particularly emphasized.

Although many of the pieces were hand-made in Africa, the exhibition also examines the use of imported and factory-made cloth. The adoption of contemporary materials reflects the consistent innovation of African artists within a traditional framework.

In addition to fabrics with which American audiences might be familiar, such as kente and Kuba cloths, the exhibition features several unusual items. A 15-foot-long "ndop" cloth from Cameroon, hung behind a king during funerals and other important public appearances, is included, along with a pair of elaborately embroidered pants that have a seven-foot waistband.

The textiles will be accompanied by photographs to illustrate the making and wearing of cloth, and there will be extensive labels describing the use and production of each piece.

Many of the pieces in the exhibition were recently acquired by the museum and have never before been exhibited.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission to the museum is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots across from the museum on Riverside Drive, and adjacent to the UI Alumni Center, which is just north of the museum.