Korhogo Cloth or Toile de Korhogo

Figure 6.15
Senufo, Ivory Coast, West Africa
Handspun cotton, vegetal and mud-based pigments
h. 65 inches, w. 44 inches

Korhogo Cloth, with its marriage of tradition and the influences of globalization, is yet another example of modernity in African cloth production. Well-known for its figurative images painted on a canvas of handspun cotton cloth for use as wall hangings, this type of cloth first surfaced in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and remains popular among tourists and urban Ivorians today. 
Its history is an interesting one. American Peace Corps volunteers in the late 1960s, early 1970s, then eager to preserve Senufo “tradition” and help the Senufo to expand their market, encouraged them to explore new avenues for their cloth production. The prototype was a type of cloth known as fila that the Senufo wore, and still wear, for spiritual (see figure 6.9). Fila cloth is mainly decorated with painted stripes and as its primary motif, the zig-zag design symbolic of the leopard. To hold onto the traditional character of fila, producers of Kohogo cloth continued to use handspun cotton strips woven by their neighboring Djula, and the natural vegetal and mud-based pigments used for painting it. But unlike fila, Korhogo cloth became a canvas onto which the cloth producers painted a wide range of representational imagery drawn from local environment and culture.  This particular example of Korhogo cloth features local fowl, fish, and various plants combined with images of Poro masqueraders. A small strip painted by a child features a row of artfully rendered guinea fowl. In the earliest examples of Korhogo cloth, the fila stripes were preserved as the grid into which the visual forms would be painted.  By the early 1980s, when the Grahams collected this cloth, the Senufo cloth makers had abandoned the stripes, using instead the entire cloth to frame the painted images..



figure 6.9

The technique the Senufo use to make “fila,” a cloth that provides spiritual protection for its wearer, is identical to the method for making “Korhogo” cloth.
Photo taken by Lisa Aronson in Dagbarakaha (Cote d’Ivoire), 1987.