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Talk / Lecture

Talk with John Ryle: Textiles That Talk: East African Kangas and Their Meanings

December 8, 2018 | 11:00AM - 12:00PM

Kangas are printed cotton fabrics worn by women in East Africa since the 18th century. Kangas are characterized by a distinctive three-element design: a decorative border; a central panel with recurring motifs; and an inscription. The designs embrace motifs from a global range of decorative traditions, with inscriptions including traditional Swahili proverbs, political slogans, and public information messages.

In this talk, John Ryle discusses kangas and the online archive Textiles That Talk: an open-access collection of high resolution images and metadata—a live catalogue raisonée of kangas. Explore Textiles that Talk here.

John Ryle is Legrand Ramsey Professor of Anthropology at

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