Madagascar Raffia Tent Panel
Textiles from Madagascar are very rare and hard to come across, especially in great condition. This Ikat Raffia panel is from the western part of Madagascar, specifically the Sakalava people. Raffia textiles like this one were only produced in a small area, the Bongo corridor on the Sakalava northwest coast. They are called laimasaka, or “cooked tapestry.” Due to the length of this piece, it was most likely used as a ceremonial tent panel, a room divider, or a mosquito net. If it was used as a tent panel for a married couple, the doubling of the images on both sides supports a wish for the fertility of the newlyweds.
Most pieces like this have the depiction of arches to be pointed towards Mecca and are used as a prayer mat, but this one is unique due to its inscription and images of animals and people. It reads: “VIVE LA FRANCE | VIVE MADAGASCAR | HONNEURA LA PATRIE | SITAM PIK S,” which is in French and translates to “Long live France, live Madagascar, Honor to the homeland, Sitam Pik S.” The last line, “SITAM PIK S” is most likely the name of the weaver, or the person it was created for. Since the inscription mentions France, this piece is from the 1890s when it was declared a French colony.
Raffia fiber is produced from the inner membrane of the leaf of the raffia palm after the outer part was peeled back to reveal the fibers. They would be made into thread using iron combs and the ends tied together to the desired length. This piece is particularly impressive because the threads seamlessly continue the entire length of the long section. It is also dyed using the ikat technique, which is the resist dying of the warp before weaving. This creates the intricate stripes, geometric patterns, and images of people, crocodiles, and other animals. To create the colors they use various vegetable dyes.
Inventory number: TX4933