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Archive for July 24th, 2011

Summertime! Heat, Clothing as Art, and Music

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Even Hot for Me, and I Love Summer

It’s been hot enough here in Lansing, Michigan this week to slow us down a good deal. There were a few days when the City offered “cooling centers” where folks without air conditioning at home, could go so they would not overheat.

On Thursday, I took this photograph of the thermometer in my kitchen. To be fair, when the sun shines it gives a falsely-high outdoor temperature, but it was pushing 100F anyway. (For non-US readers, this is equivalent to 32C indoors /44C out.)

Clothing as Art

A few days earlier, it was warmer than most like it (but I love heat, as a general rule). I hand washed a lot of my African dresses. They are so beautiful, and so colorful! I just had to take a photo.

Notice that most of them have some sort of handwork on them. Some are hand-dyed, some hand-embroidered (or embroidered with a machine that is hand controlled).

If you have read my blog much, you know that I believe that art is everywhere. You can see artful expression in the funky old kitchen items above, and particularly in the textiles shown below.

Practicality does not minimize the artfulness in my mind! It just means that these items will wear out faster than a painting on a wall.

Roll call from front to back:

  1. Purple/blue Kenyan tunic, purchased in Nairobi, Kenya. Hand-dyed fabric, hand-controlled machine embroidery.
  2. Green/Pink Kenyan long tunic, purchased in Mombasa, Kenya. hand-dyed, hand-controlled machine embroidery.
  3. Moroccan-style dress, made in Canada, purchased on Ebay. Hand-controlled embroidery, machine-made braid.
  4. Dress of unknown African origin. Purchased in Lansing at a wonderful Mideast/African/Indian clothing store on the corner of East Michigan Avenue and Foster, half a block from Foster Community Center, same corner as Quality Dairy and Blimpies. Commercially printed commercial fabric, machine sewn.
  5. Dress from “Democratic Republic of” Congo. Purchased from an American woman born in Congo (parents were missionaries) but living here, who imports items here to sell and help loved ones make a living there, fair trade. High quality factory-made printed cotton, machine sewn, machine embroidered. One piece of the embroidery looks as if it was generated by a computer-programmed sewing machine.
  6. Long dress from Kenya, purchased same place in Nairobi, with same attributes as Tunic #1.
  7. Two Ethiopian dresses, purchased on Ebay from the same seller, last fall. The dresses include white cotton which is hand-spun, and the fabric is hand woven. The side seams usually are machine sewn although this white one is hand stitched. They typically use synthetic threads for colors so that color does not run in the wash. The embroidery in Ethiopia, at least all that I have, is hand-worked.I feel so honored to own textiles of this type! I must say, though… the writing is on the wall that it will be less available over the years. Also, the quality of the dresses I bought in Ethiopia in 2004-2005 (and gift dresses I’ve received from Ethiopian friends more recently) is better than that I can find online.

I even have more African dresses than this. I love them in summer. If you must go out in heat, they create your own shade. In addition, they don’t fit tightly so allow breezes to blow and cool you down.

They are an excellent design! Trust me, shorts and a tank top wrap you like a blanket and don’t protect you from the sun. These are the best, ever. And a woman walking down the street in flowing fabric? Fabulous.

Music and Video as Art

If you have read this far, I want to offer you a musical send-off. This video appears to be mid-1970’s (before MTV and the proliferation of videos). We looked like this when I was in High School… yup. We did.

It’s Mungo Jerry singing “In the Summertime” which is a sticky tune… it may stay in your head all day, and I expect you won’t mind at all! When you click on this, it will take you to a YouTube page. Happy humming!