Echo Park Wall Hanging

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29″x18″ Hand Cut, Hand Sewed Felt Appliqué with Fabric Paint

On Abomey Appliqué from Benin

Appliqué work is the basic technique of appliquéd cloth.

In short, it consists of sewing one cloth onto another. Here visual principles come into play for the artists. The term “nu ta do nu mè” (the highlighting of one thing by another) which is given to appliqué work helps us understand – they highlight a background cloth by others of difierent colours. The cut out pieces of coloured material spread over a backcloth enhance both it and them, rather like a photograph where the “positive” reveals the “negative”. The Fon word also implies the “spreading” of patterns over the surface of the cloth. Black and white were the favourite background colours in the 19th century. An examination of the oldest pieces shows that the creators avoided leaving gaps by arranging the material.

Several steps are involved in making an appliquéd cloth: the shape of the objects is cut out and tacked onto a backcloth to hold them in position; this flexibility allows for easy changes of place in the design. When the artist is satisfied with his composition, he hems the pattern into its definite form after tucking in the edges. The artist also pays a lot of attention to the outside borders of the background cloth which are treated as though they were a picture frame.

The fact that these cloths can be hung up and looked at explains the word “hangings” applied to them.

– Historical Museum of Abomey