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Siddi Kawandi 

Photo taken from the Henry John Drewal’s website

I always liked quilts but thought I could never make one because they look so complicated. As an end of the summer project I started making two simple twin quilts for the girls’ bedroom and while I was at it, I made a smaller one for the crib of our new nephew that was born a few days ago in Argentina.
You may wonder how did I get into this?
Well the thing is that I was reading about an exhibition that is taking place in the city of San Francisco, CA named Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India and that inspired me to create a quilt out of my fabric scraps.
These beautiful kawandis (quilts) are created by people of African descent that have been living in India for generations and that are called siddis.
They are a part of a not well known African diaspora that migrated to the Asian continent through different ways.
Most of them were taken as slaves by the Portuguese, others were sailors, merchants and servants from East Africa. There are also some African Arabs, soldiers of an Arab army that invaded the continent.
Some slaves escaped to the mountains and founded villages in the forests of northern Karnataka. Although they are called siddi, there is also another term for them, habshi, a word derived from Al-Habsh, the Arabic term for Abyssinia.
As you might have guessed by now, the word habshi sounds very similar to habesha which implies that there is some Ethiopian background in there.
Actually there is!
It is believed that many Ethiopian sailors and captains of boats ended up migrating across the Indian Ocean and establishing in India.
Although most of the Afro-Indians are Muslims, there are also Catholics and Hindus.
After so many years they have embraced the local culture but they also have kept and transformed certain cultural and artistic traditions from Africa.
One of those traditions is the patchwork quilts known as kawandi.

Here is my more modest reversible crib quilt:

My Quilt

The kawandi exhibition will run until September 18th, 2011 in San Francisco and hopefully it will open at some other location after that.


The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean 9004162917
India in Africa, Africa in India  


Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India MoAD Exhibition – San Francisco, CA
Africans in India—Patchwork Quilts – Video
Siddi Kawandi Dominik Photo
Siddi – Wikipedia
Africans in India reveal their histories in quilts
Siddi Patchwork Quilts Hand Eye Magazine
History of the Ethiopian Diaspora, in India by Dr Richard Pankhurst