African Styles for Patterned Cushions

Written by hannah wahlig
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African Styles for Patterned Cushions
African patterns feature bright, repeating colours or symbolic representations. (plaid fabric image by Lucian Muset from

African textiles are more than simply colourful and ornate fabrics; they also serve as markers of tribal or group identity. Styles of African fabrics vary by region, though almost all fabrics share basic traits of woven patterns, natural fibres and colourful dyed images. African style cushions for interior seating areas add bright, bold colour accents to a design space. Choose an African style that maintains the authenticity of African design while suiting your own tastes and style.

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African Symbols

African textiles frequently feature symbolic representations of animals, nature or spiritual iconography. Fabrics which feature repeating patterns of suns, stars or fire add a striking visual element to an interior space when incorporated into designs for chairs, window seats or couches. For a more authentic African feel, consider prints with artistic representations of animals of the African savannah; lions, elephants and gazelles are common features of African fabric. Animal prints are modern options for African style fabric patterns for cushions. Traditional African use of animal patterns was in the form of animal hides rather than printed fabric, so opt for a luxurious fabric that offers some texture as well as pattern.

Kente Cloth

Kente cloth is a traditional African cloth made from handwoven strips of natural fibres like wool or cotton. Locally called nwentoma, kente cloth is a distinctive African fabric option for cushions. The bright colours of kente cloth typically tell a story or myth. Each colour symbolises different elements or objects; black traditionally represents spirit while silver is symbolic of purity, for example. The cloth is inspired by the shape and design of a spider web, typically featuring a central image and several repeating images or patterns that extend outward form the centre. The bright cloth is ideal for cushions because the cloth offers a visual central point that serves as the centre of the cushion.

Mud and Wax

Though African fabrics feature a variety of methods for dying or imprinting images, two of the most unusual and distinctive methods for creating African style patterns are the application of mud and wax. African Batik cloth is a bright, multicoloured fabric featuring abstract images and patterns; the truly unique patterns are created by layering sections of wax onto the fabric before it is dyed several times to create multicoloured patterns. Batik fabric is busy, distinctive fabric that is ideal for adding colour, vibrancy or the illusion of movement to a room. Its random patterns guarantee that each cushion will be different from another.

Both korhogo cloth of the Ivory Coast and mud cloth from Mali use mud to paint images of animals or ceremonies onto dyed cotton or wool cloth. Mud painted fabrics are much more muted in colour as the mud is brown or black and the cloth tends to be light and neutral in colour. The patterns of mud cloth are more like paintings than repeating patterns; if you want to incorporate a subtle African element into cushion design, consider mud cloth for large cushions that offer enough surface area to adequately display the artistry of the cloth.

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