Country Cloth

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Name given in Sierra Leone to cloth made from locally grown cotton, carded and spun into thread, and woven into strips on traditional looms. The strips are then sewn together edge to edge to form the finished cloth. The simpler types of country cloth are plain or warp-striped, using threads of natural brown cotton or threads dyed different shades of blue or green using traditional dyes. More elaborately conceived cloths called kpokpo (q.v.) are made by sewing together strips with variations in the weft that combine to form a complex pattern across the cloth as a whole. In the past possession of such cloths was regarded as a sign of wealth and prestige and they even functioned as a kind of currency. Country cloth is made up into shirts and gowns and headgear, particularly clothing associated with traditional ceremonies, such as the ritual gown of a Temne paramount chief or the gowns worn by boys at the completion of their initiation. Country cloth was used in hammocks and also in wrapping the dead for burial. Country cloth weaving was the centrepiece of Sierra Leone' contribution to the 1924 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley (refer to Easmon) and three traditional weavers were present throughout demonstrating their skills.

  • M.C.F.Easmon, Sierra Leone Country Cloths (London 1924)
  • C.Magbaily Fyle & A.Abraham, ' country cloth culture in Sierra Leone', Odu, 1976, 13.
  • V. & A. Lamb, Sierra Leone Weaving (Hertingfordbury 1984)