Royal Display Cloth (Ndop), T94.3021
Posted: Jan 8th, 2020 | Collection Spotlight

This week is all about indigo at the Textile Museum and our Object of the Week is an indigo dyed Royal Display Cloth (Ndop) from Cameroon.

The cloth is made of handspun cotton that has been woven into narrow strips and sewn together. Once the cloth is assembled, resist patterns are stitched into the cloth using raffia thread. It is then dyed in a vat of indigo dye, giving the cloth a blue colour in the areas that weren’t resist-stitched. The raffia stitching is removed, revealing the pattern. On this particular piece, some of the raffia thread is still attached (see the detail image).

In the 19th century, the Bamileke & Bamum peoples of the Cameroon Grasslands imported cloth like this from the Wukari region of Nigeria, where it was made by the Jukun. Around 1910, King Njoya of Bamum encouraged local weavers and dyers to produce it, establishing a textile industry that continues up to today. In Jukun culture, the cloths were used as funeral shrouds (akya); in Cameroon, they were used to demarcate royal and ritual spaces, worn as body wrappers to assert royal status and used to provide backdrops for important appearances and festivals. The word Ndop used to refer to this cloth comes from the name of the trade route by which the cloth was once traded from Nigeria.

Thanks to Dr. Lisa Aronson for her research on this object.

Links: See this object on our online collection; check out two other Ndops in the Met’s collection: 1999.3, 2000.160.55; and in the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art’s collection; come to the TMC Library to read “Variations in royal blue; Bamileke display cloth from ritual respect to ethnic demonstration” in Hali (September – October 2005, p80-87)

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