From the Field to the Festival: Reading the Landscape of Cloth in Axum, Ethiopia

Author(s): Joanna Casey

Year: 2017


The city of Axum in northern Ethiopia is well known for its high quality, hand woven cloth. Sundays and festivals bring throngs of local people who, to the outside observer, appear to be uniformly dressed in beautiful white handspun clothing embellished with colourful woven borders and embroidery. This apparent uniformity belies a very complex set of activities that lead to the production, distribution and consumption of cloth in Axum. Each step in production is dominated by people of particular ages, genders, economic levels, religions and ethnicities, who work entirely independently in different parts of town and have complete autonomy over the products of their labour, but usually very little interest in the finished product. Consumption is a matter of taste, tradition and finances. In the town shops lure wealthy customers with new embroidery styles named for current events, while village women enhance inexpensive industrially produced cloths that develop a parallel conversation about feminine craft in rural households. The purpose of this paper is to chart the landscape of cloth in Axum through production, trade and consumption and to challenge the perception that the production of cloth resides in the moment of weaving and in the skills of the master weaver.

Cite this Record

From the Field to the Festival: Reading the Landscape of Cloth in Axum, Ethiopia. Joanna Casey. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431939)


Agency craft Landscape

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15501