Sally Scott, a top South African quilt artist has the following to say: “My love of the landscape developed as a child, brought up in rural Zimbabwe. Since moving to the Eastern Cape, I have set out to capture the atmosphere of this province…. [I am] fascinated by the variety of vegetation and the fresh quality of light.
The strong, often harsh, African sun has a major impact on the colours that fabrics are dyed. Glenda from Amafu Fabrics (www.amafu.co.za) explains the influence of the African sun on colour: “I tend to work (her own hand dyed fabrics) in very strong colours but not necessarily bright colours and I think this is where the influence of Africa comes in. Part of this is to do with the very strong sunlight we have here and anything that is pastel tends to die.” The image below shows some of Glenda’s hand dyed fabrics:
This photo also shows the other environmental influence on hand dyed fabric – that of the natural dyes available from the earth – browns, ochre, red and black. Interestingly enough, although nature is full of green, it does not supply any natural green dyes. For example: the colour of the Kalahari Desert sand is red-brown which stains the fabric when you get it on your clothing. The earliest fabric dyers would have used this sand to dye their fabric this particular colour.
Indigo dyed fabric is very popular in Africa. The world’s only source of natural blue
dye comes from the Indigo plant which is mainly found in West Africa, China and Japan. Indigo plants supply hues ranging from the palest sky blue to the deepest midnight blue. Combined with other dyes, indigo dye also makes greens, most purples and non-corrosive blacks.
A popular South African fabric, called SheShwe is dyed using Indigo Dye. The photo below shows an example of Indigo dyed SheShwe fabric.
Odette Tolksdorf, another top South African quilt artist talks about the fact that her “art quilts have often been influenced by the multi-layered African environment.” Her work uses “rich and expressive colour”.
5. Google Images
6. Ndebele by Margaret Courtney-Clarke