Wrapper (Seru Njaago), 1970s
Senegal, Saint–Louis; Manjaka peoples
Cotton, synthetic yarns
Warp 70 x weft 47 in. (177.8 x 119.4 cm) including fringes
Purchase, Fred and Rita Richman Gift, 2009 (2009.257)
Senegal is renowned for its textile creations, among which those woven for Manjaka communities remain highly sought after. This wrapper is an assemblage of six similarly composed bands aligned and sewn together selvage to selvage so that they create a coherent ensemble. Distinctive for their stiffness, such textiles are conceived by their wearers as protective shields. They were used during funerary ceremonies to accompany the deceased to the edge of the burial site.
The patterns, added with supplementary weft to a warp-predominant ground weave, recall the many external influences (Portuguese, Moroccan, and Spanish) that impacted the Manjaka communities through trade, colonial history, and displacements. The West African narrow-band man's looms, upon which such works are created, have also been impacted by these external influences. To the traditional double-heddle shedding mechanism, a group of additional heddles were added to facilitate the creation of the supplementary weft patterns. These pattern-heddles are controlled, or drawn, by an assistant weaver, seated at the side of the heddles and raising each heddle in precise order, according to the demands of the pattern. Unique in West Africa, scholars have long considered the Manjaka loom to have been influenced by Hispano-Moresque draw-loom traditions.