Quilt

This quilt is pieced together from fragments of used cloth, including previously worn silk and cotton saris. The bold style and free arrangement of patches suggest it was made by the Sidis, descendents of Africans living in India. Sidi quilts, or kawandi, integrate both Indian and African textile traditions. Look for the contrasting, detailed embroidery resembling bird footprints.


Collection Connections 

  • Quilt

    Quilt

    Asia: South Asia, India, Northern India, Rajasthan

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  • Quilt

    Quilt

    Asia: South Asia, India, Northern India, Rajasthan

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  • Cover

    Cover

    Asia: South Asia, India, Central India

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  • Quilt

    Quilt

    Asia: South Asia, India, Western India, Gujarat, Saurashtra

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What do the various scraps of cloth tell us about the culture of the Sidis in India?

responded: Mar 29, 2012

Posted by Mahmood Husain

151
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The various scraps tell us stories about lives of men and women of African descent living in parts of India and Pakistan. While most Sidis have more or less assimilated in the cultural milieu they find themselves in, remnants of their past can be seen in Sidi textiles and music. The Sidi came to the subcontinent through different channels. Some were brought from different parts of Africa as soldiers to serve in the armies of the nawabs of various sultanates. Some Sidis rose to prominent ranks within the army and at one point in time there were Sidi sultanates operating in Jafarabad and Ahmedabad. Other Sidis are said to settle in India on their way back from the pilgrimage in Mecca. Yet others were brought as slaves for the nawabs. During the colonial period, the various Sidi groups were divided up and put into Tribal groups which lead to their increased marginalization and created impoverished Sidi populated areas. The quilt tells us a story of poverty and resourcefulness. It tells us that every scrap of fabric is valuable and useful. Seemingly useless cloth can be patched together to create something incredibly beautiful and practical. The use of bright colours for the rectangles is quite typical of an African quilt and perhaps gives a nod to the Sidis’ African ancestry. The geometric imperfections and improvisation in the quilt also remind one of quilts made in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. The use of scraps from old Saris is what makes this quilt truly Afro India. It represents the interweaving of the two cultures through textiles.

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