Thursday, 22 September 2011

Lesotho Tapestries

After being told at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop that it was the only tapestry workshop in the Southern Hemisphere, I thought I should tell you about the Lesotho Tapestries. Lesotho is a landlocked Mountain Kingdom in the middle of South Africa and is famous for the pure mohair wool tapestries made there. If you go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZxeQNl65G8 you will see the making of a Lesotho tapestry, from the spinning of the mohair through to the weaving of the tapestry on the loom to the finished roduct. Although the weavers of Lesotho do not have the fancy workshop and equipment that they have in Australia, the finished product is top quality. The designs are African, sometimes from the weaver's own artistic skill and sometimes from African artists.
If you also go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R0gKo58hDw you will see weaver Marguerite Stephens discussing translating the artist William Kentridge's original concepts into intricate, large-scale tapestries. Located in Diepsloot (a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa), the Stephens Tapestry Studio employs a team of local weavers, spinners, and dyers who work on vertical looms using mohair spun in Swaziland.

Having witnessed first-hand one of the twentieth century's most contentious struggles—the dissolution of apartheid—William Kentridge brings the ambiguity and subtlety of personal experience to public subjects most often framed in narrowly defined terms. Using film, drawing, sculpture, animation, and performance, he transmutes sobering political events into powerful poetic allegories. Aware of myriad ways in which we construct the world by looking, Kentridge often uses optical illusions to extend his drawings-in-time into three dimensions.

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