Cut-thread cloth (pelete bite)


Madame Amonia Akoko ( Nigerian, 1935 )

Kalabari Ijo peoples
c. 1980
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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 predominantly red cotton Indian madras cloth with dark blue and white warp and weft striping was transformed by Madame Amonia Akoko (b. circa 1940), an "extraordinary" pelete bite artist and teacher who learned to cut cloth from her grandmother. To create the new cloth, she blocked off discrete design fields, each of which she cut with a distinctive motif. The motifs on this cloth include "wineglass stem," "masquerade triangles," "checkerboard," "fish gills," and "mat." Unlike other artists who cut each design area and then remove the threads, Madame Akoko cut the designs for the entire eight yards of cloth before removing the threads. It took her three months to create this pelete bite cloth with its complex but harmonious designs.

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  • Roslyn A. Walker, DMA unpublished material, 2014.

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