Songhay Arkila Jenngo, Mali
Wool and cotton weave, dyed using vegetal and mineral pigments
173 1/4 x 53 in. (440 x 135 cm)
About this object
This spectacular textile, an Arkila (also spelled Arkilla) Jenngo (or Jango or Jaango), is a type traditionally woven as a dowry or marriage cloth, sometimes created as a tent divider to provide privacy. This item is described as being created by Songhay-speaking weavers (a large group of languages and dialects spoken by people in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and other West African countries). A very similar blanket in the collection at the Art Institute of Chicago is said to be made in Niger by people in the Fulani culture (see Wedding Blanket (Arkilla Jenngo)). The Fulani (or Peul) and Songhay both live in the Niger River region of Mali and Niger, and these two groups are the principal weavers in the region. These particular arkilla jenngo textiles are perhaps most famously associated with Fulani weavers, often for wealthy Tuareg or other customers. See Malian Bogolian, style. One source claims that Fulani weavers, traditionally only men, wove three types of arkilla (described as the largest and most expensive blanket in the Middle Niger region): the arkilla amunga made for Songhai women, the arkilla kerka made for Fulani nobility, and the arkilla jenngo, made for Tuareg women. (Bloom and Blair, 81)
For examples of similar Sahelian cloths, see the “Wedding Blanket” at the Art Institute of Chicago and the “Ceremonial Blanket” for Wedding Tent at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. All three textiles have black-and-white checkerboard backgrounds with repeating designs, which include zig-zag strips, herringbone patterns, and alternating diamond and X strips.
Jonathan M.Bloom and S. Blair Sheila. The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Pascal James Imperato. “Blankets and Covers from the Niger Bend.” African Arts 12, no. 4 (August 1979), 38-43, 91.
Alisa LaGamma and Christine Giuntini. The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design without End. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008. Accessed May 3, 2023. https://books.google.com/books?id=UyxrpFTTF9UC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Imperato, Pascal James, “Wool Blankets of the Peul of Mali.” African Arts 6, no.3 (Spring 1973), 40-47, 84.
“Malian Bogolan: Style,” Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage, https://folklife.si.edu/malian-bogolan/style/smithsonian.