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The spandrels were not very well woven but the rest of the weaving glistens with bright blossoms and scattered racemes. Judging from the botanics of the flowers its age is definitely well into the 18th century, perhaps as early as 1750 or so. Whoever bought got a wonderful piece.

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Furthermore, on the flip side, I have never seen any European shawl exhibiting the Sikh motifs in question indigenous to Kashmir of this period, except for those which were exact duplicates –of which many can be found- of those kani woven in Kashmir. The skeptics contend furthermore that since none of these bizarre patterns can be found in contemporary painting, either in India or in Europe, the source of their design must have come from abroad and not India. It’s true that there’s not one known Indian painting that illustrates a Sikh shawl. But this cannot be taken as a measure of its lack of popularity. The Hungarian painter, August Schoefft, in his monumental painting of the court durbar of Maharaja Runjit Singh illustrates very clearly two long Sikh Kashmir shawls employed a curtains in this highly animated scene. Indian artists were not likely to paint a strange new fashion, one insular to a region cut off from the rest of India. Let me point out one important thing. The Sikh designs we are talking about here represent a an extremely narrow segment of a shawl industry known for a seemingly boundless repertoire of shawl designs. One might describe it as a very special artistic movement, albeit short lived, but perhaps not unlike the movements of Cubism or fauvism, both of which had only brief periods of popularity. And like these French movements, the Sikh movement also had its impact on future shawl style.

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The importation of broadloom and machine-made yarns into the igbo area was a factor that affected cloth weaving. In order to attract market and face the challenge posed by imported cloths, local weavers had to use imported yarns. Though the imported yarns were too expensive for indigenous weavers, the Akwete weavers adopted the colorful machine-made yarns in place of local cotton threads in their weaving. The Akwete weavers were able to navigate the many changes that accompanied colonialism and capitalism to keep their industry alive and strong. The result was producing beautiful colourful cloths in place of the dominant white and at times dull background. The broad looms, Nkwe were introduced into Akwete in 1946 which reduced time spent in weaving by producing a wider piece at a time against weaving two to three separate pieces of narrow cloths that were later joined together to produce a piece of wrapper. The high cost of the imported broadloom and machine-made yarns led to the idea of forming a cooperative society aimed at obtaining yarn direct from the firms at reduced prices.

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164-Sikh period, c1835-1845. Detail of long Kashmir shawl with white center. Spectacular pattern

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Now the question arises: Did the French have agents stationed in Kashmir, at the ready, to capture such patterns in kani weaving for the French market? And if they did why is it that no such shawls (either Byzantine or Gothic in style) have ever been found in the market? I have yet to come across a kani shawl exhibiting any such pattern.

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The four main patterns in Akwete cloth include;
ETIRIETI (GEORGE) which is rather plain and made up of mostly stripes and squares.
AKPUKPA is a very vibrant pattern that is often purchased by foreigners.
AHIA is a rather complex design that is controlled by the number of heddles (a cord or wire that the thread passes through).
OGBANAONWEYA, an intricate pattern used mostly by the Akwete community itself.

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Akwete cloth became popular when Abia State became a center of palm oil and kernel trade. The people of Igboland began trading Akwete cloth for all sorts of products with people of other regions and ethnicities, and the cloth’s fame spread. The women who make Akwete cloth usually start doing so at a very young age. The Akwete community considers cloth weaving to be a gift; you have to be born with it. Young girls begin weaving cloth as soon as their arms are long enough to work the loom, and make sections that range from 15-to-30 inches wide. As their arms grow and strengthen, they weave cloths up to 50 inches wide. Each cloth can take weeks to weave. There were other weaving centers in the Eastern provinces at Nsukka, Udi and Abakaliki areas; the Nsukka weavers called theirs Orii, claimed to be an imitation of the Akwete cloth; Eventually the creative designs and vibrant colors made Akwete one of the most famous textiles in Nigeria. It has been said that their contact with Europeans led to the invigoration of the craft. Akwete weavers were more inventive as well as receptive to change and innovation. European presence had brought about improved quality, improved patterns and designs as well as a larger market. European fabrics offered many alternative patterns, designs and motifs from which Akwete weavers copied their own.