Cut-thread cloth (pelete-bite)

MAKER:
Artist

Unknown

CULTURE:
Kalabari Ijo people
DATE:
c. 1980
more object details

General Description

Pelete means "cut-thread" and bite means "cloth" in the Ijo language. Pelete bite is uniquely associated with Kalabari peoples living in the Delta region of Nigeria and produced solely by Kalabari women in the town of Buguma. Kalabari Ijo women modify the original striped or checked patterns on imported Indian madras cotton cloth by cutting and removing selected threads to produce a new, intricate, lace-like pattern. They accomplish this by two painstaking processes: 1) lifting threads singly or in groups with a needle and snipping them off with a razor or penknife, or 2) lifting certain weft threads—the transverse threads—with a needle and pulling them out entirely. This pelete-bite was originally a vertically striped patterned cloth. The artist redesigned the cloth by snipping white warp (vertical) threads to create alternating blue and white slanted bars within the red stripes. The border has likewise been redesigned with white bars on a blue field. The artists declare that the uncut cloth “speaks” to them as they work directly on the cloth, without a preconceived design.

The cloth is worn by men and women on the occasions of major social events and funeral celebrations. The cloth is used to decorate the funeral rooms and beds of elderly women. This honor is reserved for elderly women who lived long enough to acquire enough cloths for this purpose.

Adapted from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Add to, Take Away: Artistry and Innovation in African Textiles, 2014.

  • Roslyn A. Walker, DMA unpublished material, 2014.

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