Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past

Spinning cotton thread, Gbao, 1982

Ma Fiԑn of Gbao (left) and Abena Wusu of Dompofie (right) spin cotton thread. Their spindles (gԑndԑ in Nafaanra) are weighted by fired clay spindle whorls (gԑndԑ kaan in Nafaanra) which help the spindle to maintain an even spin. Ma Fiԑn uses a calabash bowl as a spinning surface. Abena Wusu uses an enamel-ware bowl placed on a basket. They use their right hand to guide thread onto the spindle as it spins. In their left hand they hold the raw cotton from which the thread is being spun. They control the tension and flow of the cotton by alternately pulling back and easing their left hands. Thread forms as the spindle spins, with the finished product building up in layers toward the spindle's lower end, near the whorl. The baskets on top of which they spin used to store spinning equipment when not in use. Until recent decades, spinning was a routine household activity for women who then gave thread to men skilled in weaving to make cloth for the household. Spindle whorls found on archaeological sites dating to the late 18th and 19th centuries tell us that spinning was also a household activity during those centuries. In the photo's background harvested foods are drying (groundnut, cassava, chili pepper). A large basket and other containers (including a plastic tub) sit next to dried calabash ready to be sent to market. To the right, a clay water pot (chͻkoo in Nafaanra) rests on a metal basin and in the top right is a metal water barrel. Four photos. Gbao, September, 1982.
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University of Victoria Libraries
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Location(s) Facet:
Plastic containers; Chͻkoo (chokoo); Cotton thread; Techniques; Water barrels; Women's work
Subjects Facet:
Gourd, Calabash; Enameled ware; Handicraft; Spinning; Spindle whorls; West African strip weaving; Baskets; Water
27; 23; 24; 25
Dr. Ann B. Stahl
Dr. Ann B. Stahl
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;35 mm slide
Genre Facet:
35 mm slide
Gbao;8.147021, -2.362744
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People Facet:
Dr. Ann B. Stahl
Slide scanned by Veronique Plante
Geographic Coordinates:
8.147021, -2.362744