Cloth card

Cloth

1981.388.3

Currently not on display

Information

This cloth is one of three textiles, originally owned by J. H. Swainson, an agent for the Liverpool firm Pinnock & Co., who traded with Benin merchants in the 1890s. The three textiles (1981.388.1-3) were presented to the museum in 1981 by Peter Karpinski, who acquired them from his great aunt Flo, Swainson’s daughter. The cloth is made of plain weave cotton in locally spun open cotton and indigo stripes locally dyed. Three strips of cloth have been sewn together lengthways to make the whole, each with indigo and white warp stripes of different widths, giving the appearance of narrow strip weave. Textiles were a major item of trade in the Edo Kingdom for centuries. There was a flourishing trade in cloth with European merchant mariners by the mid-seventeenth century. Dutch merchants at this time recognized two main types of cloth made in the Edo Kingdom which brought them a profitable resale on the western coast of Africa. They exchanged the blue and white striped variety for gold on the coast of present day Ghana. They exchanged plain blue ones for ivory and human captives on the coasts of Gabon and Angola (see Alan Ryder 1969, p.93-4).