African textiles have had and still have an exceptional significance as a means of communication, information and mutual association within particular communities. There is spiritual and historical significance in not only the choice of colors, dyes and type of threads used, but also in the decorative element, the symbols used and the figural compositions which are directly related to historical proverbs and events. They represent a form of storytelling often taking the place of the written word and convey messages of importance for an individual, family, or larger social unit. African textiles are often used for social and political comment, for commemorative purposes marking special occasions like political or tribal events, weddings, funerals, burials, naming ceremonies. Historically, their usage was controlled by chiefs and regional leaders and they were distributed with favor. As personal adornment they are wrapped as skirts round waists and hips and thrown over the shoulder or made into tunics and robes. African textiles are not always worn but sometimes used as backdrops against which public ceremonies were held. African textiles are also used quite simply as items of warmth or cover but centuries of tradition and a culture of crafting beautiful items imbues some African communities with an air of elegance and tribal pride.
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