Fiber art in the Stanley Museum of Art encompasses a wide range of object types, rather than the woven garments that are commonly used to represent textiles in museum collections. Beaded objects from Africa and Native North America belong to this collection, as well as hats from many areas in Africa, the Pacific Northwest Coast, and Peru; bark cloth from South Pacific and Central Africa; machine-made cloth used by avant-garde artists in North America and non-professional artists in India and West and East Africa; and several fine quilts in the Gee’s Bend style.

The strength of the collection lies especially in examples of twentieth century, hand-woven and dyed, wool and cotton cloth from West Africa, many of which feature exceptional forms of embroidery and technical precision. Highlights include billowing Hausa- and Yoruba-style robes known alternately as babban-riga and agbada, indigo-dyed cotton cloth from Nigeria. The collection includes fine examples of Asante- and Ewe-style kente cloth, bogolan cloth from Mali, Mbuti-style bark cloth and Kuba-style cut-pile, raffia cloth from the Congo, and woolen and synthetic fiber garments that comprise a bridal ensemble from southeast Morocco.

In terms of historical significance and artistic quality, the strength of this collection belongs just as much to examples from South America. Donated to the museum by Eugene and Ina Schnell through a series of generous gifts, this collection area contains extraordinary examples of wool and cotton cloth in the Chancay, Chimu, Nazca, Wari, and Inca style. Highlights also include a significant collection of 19th- and 20th-century flatwoven prayer rugs and storage bags from Turkey, given to the museum by Keith Achepohl.

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Collection Highlights


King's tunic (agbada ileke)

Yoruba style; Nigeria
colorfully beaded black velvet vest with vine/floral and arrow head patterns


Unrecorded Meskwakie artist; Iowa
Yoruba-style crown


Yoruba style; Nigeria

May Day

Mary Ann Pettway