Arkilla / hangings by Fulani from Mali and Niger
Arkilla means « a mosquito net» in the Fulani language.
Zareh Achdjian writes
With textile arts, some have an ethnographic perspective, some others have an aesthetic perspective, in that second group, few are emphasizing age, others insist on condition, and there are those who are happy with just any fragments representing historical documents.
The approach to and the study of Arkilla weaving is no exception to the norms for textiles.
I personally believe in the aesthetic emotional experience created for the viewer by the presence of a piece followed by analysis. The forms on historical, sociological, and geographical frameworks of textile production in my mind is incomplete to formulate pertinent ideas.
I defer to viewers, in drawing from their experience, to develop their own ideas in this regard. I would like to present a short list of references on the subject from articles, journals, etc.:
Knowledge of Mali African textiles is rather limited due to the oral traditions of their cultures, which leaves a hypothetical basis for any theories concerning their works.
I consider, therefore, as pseudo- scientific most of researches which have been done in that field.
On what scientific facts are based attributions of the designs ? on what scientific fact, it is established that an arkilla with a minimalist design (arkilla Bammbu) is very probably ordered by an orphan ? of course, for me, this is a joke ! … serious knowledgeable persons would nearly never consider that a minimalist design is the fact of someone who did not have enough money .. I would say, just the opposite .. you need to be even more wealthy .. rich enough to not show your financial power ! of course, he arkilla bammbu is the fact of a tradionnal design or motives with a specific ethnic group. I hope than one day someone will discover for which clan or “tribu” in french, this type of design used to be woven, and I am sure, latter, several others examples sharing the same design will appear on the market and will to demonstrate my hypothesis.
Many others mistakes have been done ! and this is due to th fact, that those who wrote about African textiles were not as used as those who studied Turkmen rugs and textiles.
The geberal approach should be very similar.
The major pieces have been done for the rulers, for the ruling class ! not for the poor ! the rulers rule, they don’t weave ! weavers weave for them, but this does not mean that designs and motives belong to weavers !
are Maboulé Fulani weavers and designer-weavers or only weavers ?
is the design for any one ? in a so hierachic society as the Tuareg society or the Tuareg societies, what is the part of the design of an arkilla which is due to the weaver ? and what part is due to the Tuareg whi is a Lord who will never weave !
So many of our questions just don’t have any answers valid in fact. Having presented these concerns, I would like to pay compliment to those museums and institutions which have given the most serious attention to « Arkilla ».
CLASSIFICATION AND DEFINITION
Looking at « Arkilla »
Before letting you « look at » the arkilla works presented in « digital format », I would like to draw your attention to several points:
– the characteristics and physical aspects of your P.C screen represent in another way the visual aspects of the work. You are looking at a digital representation of the work and are therefore encouraged to go and see the physical object. No artificial representation can replace the direct observation of the work itself.
– The way to contemplate them is the horizontal way.
– The arkilla textiles are used by the tribes people as a mobile separation in their nomadic or semi-sedentary dwelling places. The height is most often above 3 or 4 meters and sometimes is more than 5 meters. The placement of the works are in a manner that they are most advantageously displayed to be seen at a distance. The idea is that the arkilla jenngo are intended to be seen from the exterior of the Touareg tent, and consequently served as a mean of identification of the owner or habitant of the interior dwelling. The Touareg who commissioned the works would never have accepted to display a piece that did not properly reflect their ethnic relations or their social rank in Touareg groups.
Their ideas on these matters are different from ours and in their personal beliefs the pieces would also serve to keep bad influences and gods at a distance and conversely to attract the « good ».
A pertinent question then is what impression, what feeling, what sensation would I have standing a dozen meters from an « arkilla » ?
– do Arkillas got similarities with The Nympheas by Claude Monet ? our answer would be YES. The arkillas are surrounding the nomadic tent of Tuareg, and there are nothing more. They create a visual atmosphere of a same design (blue and white for Arkilla Jenngo) which is a mental world all around the one who is living inside the tent. They are a 360 ° image. The sun is so shining that there is a visual dancing effet or a dysfunction of the normal retinian view and in a way motives are dancing for the one who is contemplating the arkillas.
Don’t forget that these pieces were most often observed in full daylight sun. This point is important because the creators of the weavings were primarily concerned and kept in mind a design that would be in play with the intense vibrating light reflected from the hot sand. This light would have a pronounced effect on the rectangular colored forms imparting them with a dynamic resonance between color and form. The hot, vibrating, reflected light could in effect create an illusion where the white squares would take on a blue hue, with back and forth oscillations.
If one looks at an « arkilla » by candlelight long enough and hard enough, one will experiment this dynamic blue white oscillation effect, and the switching back and forth of adjacent geometric fieldsWith these hints as a guide, I hope you have an enjoyable moment taking in these works and that the visual experience will give you a sublime interval of reflection.
Berdj Achdjian + Translated by Jim Acko