Massive swathe of resist dyed indigo strip weave cloth from the Grassfields of western Cameroun forms an exceptional and dramatic exemplar of the Ndop tradition. While smaller ndops could be worn, these huge pieces were a vital element of court display and ceremonial life in the various small kingdoms of the Grassfields. Edged with red cloth, they were hung up on bamboo frames to form screens that demarcated sacred space for masquerades, royal events, and “cry dies” (funeral ceremonies.) Making an ndop involved a whole series of skilled practitioners – the male weavers of the plain white hand spun cotton strip weave, a specialist who marked out the intended design on the white cloth, the women who carefully sewed thin raffia rope along the marked lines, the indigo dyers, and finally those who unpicked the raffia to reveal the finished design. Illustrating the value always attached to this now largely lost tradition, damaged older pieces were reused and reassembled – here we can see pieces of at least three earlier cloths sewn together, with the placement of the different fragments carefully selected to form a balanced but dynamic composition. The darker pieces are in the looser older style that were made by Jukun people in Wukari, Nigeria, for trade to the Cameroun peoples, while the others are locally made Bamun or Bamileke cloths. The edging in red felt is an indicator that the cloth was assembled in this form quite early, probably in the 1950s. There’s some old insect damage on sections of this red felt at the top centre, otherwise condition is very good.
Measurements 176 inches x 100, 448 cm x 255.
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