Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Garra Cloth

Selling Garra Cloth in Kenema - December 1968: taken on what was known as Kingsway Street this picture shows garra sellers walking along trying to hawk their wares. In the background are a number of shops owned by local Lebanese traders. Garra was a popular native tie-dyed cloth and by the late 60's most of the raw cloth was imported from Europe. It came in white and then local craftspersons (usually women) would dye the material using indigo dye to create variable blue colors, or dye it with kola nut which would give the material a variable brown color. Garra was very popular with Peace Corps volunteers. Frequently we would have the sections we bought (called Lappas) made into dresses or shirts by local tailors. Most of the sales work in Kenema was by Fula, Susu, or Mandingo traders.
This photo © by Chad Finer


Sandwich said...

By chance (seeing a garra-like garment) on the street in Berkeley, was thinking of the words "garra" and "lappa." Where do they come from? Are they Mende, Sherbro or Temne in origin, or Creole and if so, what roots, (Lap? lop?)in English? My friends were part of the other group beside Peace Corps, Kalamazoo College students at Fourah Bay College.

sl 68-70 said...

the origin of the word gara is most likely Mandingo (aka Mandinka) or perhaps Susu. [from THE TRADITIONS AND HISTORY OF INDIGO DYED TEXTILES IN SIERRA LEONE AS THEY RELATE TO THE ART AND LIFE OF HAJA KADIATU KAMARA
A THESIS IN Art History
Presented to the Faculty of the University of Missouri-Kansas City in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree
MASTER OF ARTS] - and btw this is a very good reading if interested :
As best as I can determine Lappa is of Krio [Creole] origin