Volunteering for Out of Africa quilt show arranged by the London International Quilt Festival was really cool. My friend and I spent more time with quilts than we normally would have, and with the other volunteers and the circle of vendors around the room.
A quilt, apparently, can be broadly defined as a fancy top and a back, with a batting sometimes in the middle. At this show, there were very few, if any, quilts like the traditional ones my grandmother would make. Almost all of these quilts from the African continent were meant to hang on the wall. Stunning “quilts” from the Men of Cairo collective were actually tent walls, and resembled Persian carpets or mosaics. African animals, cultures, traditional and everyday life were celebrated with brilliant colours, sombre desert hues, embroidery and embellishments.
I didn’t get to the lecture on the African quilts, but I did meet a volunteer, Hasebenebi Kaffel who knew the subject in broader terms. I mistook him for a member of the Men of Cairo collective. He really works for the UK-based ACORD and has been to Cairo many times, he said. Also a member of ACFOLA, he was at the show to volunteer his knowledge of Africa. He told me how long ago he fled his home in Eritrea with nothing, and then ended up in front of the World Bank to deliver a paper on the importance of gender in the economics of developing countries. Very interesting!
Alas, I did not make any purchases. There were vendors from all over the world, but instead of getting into something new, I vowed to finish the quilt that I started 30 years ago. I know, I’m amazed at how quickly time has passed. “The Wedding Plate” is pieced bits of fabric from projects that my sisters and I made in our teens–dresses, PJs, blouses, pot holders, whatever–and I need to finish the quilting and bind it.
It’s good that Africa came to London, for the education, inspiration, and the joy!!