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Hunter's coat

All over sub-Saharan Africa, men weave strips of cloth on narrow, portable looms. The maker of this coat sewed strips together to make the body of the garment and then covered it with objects. The result is a substantial, heavy coat. Leather packets filled with magical substances adorn the coat, as well as mirrors, claws, horns, knotted ropes and papers containing Qur'anic verses. In West Africa, Muslims consider calligraphy of the sacred Qur'an to be protective and capable of bestowing magical power.

Where was this textile created?

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Hunter's coat
Africa: West Africa, Mali
Early to mid 20th century
Cotton woven and embellished with amulets, shells, leather
215 cm x 114 cm
Museum Purchase
T81.0112 Textile Museum of Canada

The charms (grisgris) that cover this hunter’s coat were made as protection, although the hunter would not wear the coat during the actual hunt. Instead, it was worn in a ceremony beforehand, where it endowed the hunter with invincibility for a future battle with a ferocious animal.

Mali is the site of one of three great African empires of the 11th-15th centuries AD. All three – Ghana, Mali and Songhay – controlled the mining and trading of gold, and developed cultures featuring significant architecture and art forms. The musical “The Lion King” is based on the adventures of Sundiata, the Lion King of Mali. “The many layers of material load this coat with meanings, but in the end, it is about hunting. I wonder if the wearer of this garment had a moment of contrition for all the killings.” Kai Chan, Canadian visual artist

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