Handouts Are Up

Guess what? Handouts are up! That’s right, these are the beginner handouts for the classes I taught at Gulf Wars! Feel free to leave questions, suggestions, and comments!


Africa Embellished

Africa Unbound


Happy Adventuring,


Why Don’t They Build A Bigger Loom?

Iris Faire-2074

Hi! I never update! Also, this is a copy-paste from another post I put on my Facebook. I’m lazy!

There are pictures of my newest looks for Kehinde coming soon! I promise this time!

And now the copy-pasta! All rambling notes are about the links right under them.


More research!

One mystery solved! The thin strips that I didn’t get in Yoruba medieval/traditional clothing? “Why not build a bigger loom?”

Woven by men! I know that seems kind of sexist, but bear with me.

In Yoruba culture, men and women are both weavers and their styles are complimentary. Adire is typically a male-produced cloth, made on the narrow double-heddle loom. The strips are typically 4 inches wide and used for the tie and dye process, probably because it is, like, a billion times faster and easier to tie and dye 4-inch strips than yardage when symmetry is such a big deal. So the “knight’s tunic” the German merchant acquired? Woven by a man for a man, as was traditional for political occasions, such as  a knighting or coronation. Women did weave men’s clothing, but usually for rites of passage or religious ocassions, like marriages and births.

A garment woven by a women is made on a broad-loom, typically with fewer panels and shorter in length. The broad-loom is stationary and not easy to break down, unlike the men’s thin double-heddle. The popular belief among scholars is that when Westerners saw that women were confined to the house for weaving and men could weave with double-heddles (pretty much anywhere), the assumption was that men were the professionals and women wove only for domestic items, when the case seems to be that women’s weaving was complimentary to men’s, not subordinate.

As a cheat sheet: Many thin panels sewn together to make a garment, men’s weaving. Only a couple wide panels (perhaps two panels sewn down the middle or just one big sheet), woman’s weaving.

For more interesting reading on the subject AND some interesting pictures for textiles, feel free to peruse the links below. Be warned, one of them is in French.

African textile history with a focus on adire, especially adire onika (tie and dye) and alabere (stitch resist):




http://www.adireafricantextiles.com/asookeintro.htmhttp://www.adireafricantextiles.com/africantextintro5.htm (Is that trim? I don’t know yet!)

An exceptionally informative, exceptionally expensive book. It has crazy illustrations and studies many techniques, including pre-colonial garments. It’s also where the majority of scholars get information on weaving taboos (yes, they exist, weirded me out, too) as well as widths and lengths, fiber content, specific patterns. Ugh, just read it.:


Hi! This is in French! However, it has fabulous imagery from the Tellum Caves excavation, including an early fila, which looks a bit like a Phrygian cap, an adire onika coif, some vertical strip cloth with horization weaving…now the coifs are something I want to point attention to for a second, because this is an 11th century find. Yes, the Tellum Caves are technically in Mali, which is a Sudanic kingdom to the east of Yorubaland, but the consensus among many scholars is that these techniques were common throughout West Africa at the time. Even if 11th century Oyo didn’t have adire onika (which it likely did and I haven’t found pictures yet), they definitely had it by the 1500s. Anyway, one coif has a definite turned hem with what  am hoping with a blind hem (I can’t see the inside) or a slipstitch. There are “stitch marks” visible on the adire coif, but it could either be sloppy stitching or a sloppy stitch resist (true adire almost always has “stitch marks”, which are really just left from the thread). IF it is left over from the stitch resist, the thread is pretty thin. They use raffia traditionally to do stitch resists because it is so dye-resistant (now they use plastic and I will be using upholstery thread because raffia is rather expensive to just turn around and throw in the trash after dyeing). So, as you can see, it’s kind of thin. Anyway, just a bit of speculation on my part. I didn’t mean to turn this into a novel. Check out the next page, too. Lined coifs and tunic patterns. Yay.:


Finally, some extremely interesting academic articles on traditional Nigerian clothing, focusing on Yoruba. Venice Lamb gets some mentions and both are written by Nigerians and have AWESOME bibliographies/sources pages. Definitely worth a read, if only for the small tidbits of information, like learning that crimson cloth was introduced to Yoruba court in the late 1400s and that the etymology for the garments suggest they are of Arab origin.:

Click to access sogunguyilepaper.pdf

Click to access asakitipki_aretha.pdf

This really turned into a book, didn’t it? Okay, well, if you have questions, let me know. =D I’m still learning, and maybe next week I will find out this is all wrong. Oh well, that’s just part of it, I guess!

Happy adventuring!


A Look at Kehinde

So, I am pretty much the worst blogger in the history of ever.

I did win NaNoWriMo this year (so there’s that).

I thought that I would show you guys a quick view of Kehinde’s progress. So, here!


What I like about this look:

The braids are super fun. They were a bit hard to do on myself–I did them at the last minute THAT MORNING–but I got a ton of compliments on them. The beads came from a four dollar craft necklace craft set from WalMart, all carved wood, glass, and malleable metal that Kehinde would have had access to. I didn’t get a picture of the hairpiece, but it’s a great, swooping bun at it was HEAVY. Much heavier than my Indian braids. Eek! The bracelet is also metal.

I am wearing two wax prints and one quilting cotton print. I love the design on the quilting (the dress), the texture and the designs on the drape and the handmade look of the second print, which you unfortunately cannot see, because it is the apron piece. When I can, I will show you the layer of this outfit. Holding this up is a macrame’d belt with wooden beads.

What I hate:

The braids were very fuzzy and VERY plain for Yoruba nobility. I need swooping, wing-like monstrosities positively bursting from my hairline and I won’t be able to achieve this without either a wig or twenty handservants (which is what Kehinde might have had…well…not twenty). The beads are nice but EXTREMELY under-done. She needs beads on beads on beads in coral and amber for her fancy dress. At my current state of dress, I am slumming it. Likewise, I need necklaces, beaded belts, bracelets, and anklets, not to mention fabulous earrings and a lovely nose ring.

I am not wearing any form of scarification in this picture. It’s extremely difficult to do makeup of that degree for an extended period of time for SCA events, so I am trying to remember to paint my face ahead of time (generally thin black lines). Scarification is crucial as a form of identity, a passing of age event, and a beauty technique for noble women of this time in medieval Western Africa (Benin and Oyo in particular). I have gotten a couple of comments on my views of this and not all of them have been encouraging. That’s okay; medieval Europeans would think scarification looked crazy, too, so it’s a good thing I’m only painting it on.

The quilter’s cotton batik. I am currently in the process of ordering new cloth (it’s all draped garments…seeing a trend in my personas?) but, for now, I’ve got a ton of this broadcloth. Ugh. It’s really cute…for a beginner…but I want to go beyond that. The broadcloth has GOT to go.

The shoes. You can’t see them, but they are super-cute sandals made of leather and decorated with metal beads. I can’t do much about that; you kind of have to have shoes in this day and age. I just wish I could go without or make the perfect set of desert sandals.

Accessories. I needs them. Many women hollowed gourds and used them for purses and pouches (not unlike my famous coconut purse). I need those. I need a grass basket. I need an animal skin cloak…probably goat or something similar. I need fancy jewelry in metal, bone, or corral. I need a better beaded belt. Macrame is not supported in my research for Kehinde, though she could have purchased it from traders from northern Africa. It’s unlikely, though, and I’d rather just get a beaded belt. I also need at least one metal of beaded necklace with a gigantic cross on it. I’m not kidding.

I have come a LONG way with this persona, and now all of you guys get to see it! Yay! But, I still have a LONG way to go, and, hopefully, it’ll only get fancier and…more African.


Now, the big question everyone is probably asking: Where are the breasts?

Well, medieval Africa is filled with breasts, yes, not unlike medieval India. However, the SCA is a family show. There is evidence leading me to believe that Christian or baptized West Africans (Kehinde is one) covered themselves out of modesty. The picture below depicts Afonso I of the Kongo and the women in the picture all have their breasts covered, whether by sashes or smocks.


It is these depictions of the most basic draped clothing that I am using as the basis for Kehinde’s garb, as she is a Christian African woman with a Portguese mother (look, Portuguese people in the picture), so the chance that she’s flashing her breasts all over, even if it’s the local fashion, is low. Yes, I am aware that the Kongo and the Kingdom of Oyo are two different places and you can’t point to one side of a continent and then another and assume they dressed the same (Poland versus France, say). However, since they are relying on draped clothing at this point in history and then their next stage of dress is obviously influenced by the same country’s traditions and religious beliefs, I think it’s safe at this moment to assume that Kehinde’s dress would not be too unlike the Christian African women of the Kongo with remarkable difference in jewelry, hair, textile design and content, cosmetics, etc. After all, her draped wrap isn’t too unlike a sari, which isn’t too unlike a kilt. You can only do so many things with a long rectangle, after all, and 90% of it seems to involve pleats.

Besides, Corpora states that I am a visitor to the European (influenced) courts of the Laurel Kingdoms. Even if Kehinde weren’t baptized and a practicing Christian, she still couldn’t flash in court. Just sayin’. If you came here for boobs, sorry ’bout that.


~ K



I was online this morning and stumbled across this video. Fascinating.


Why Western Africa?

Or “Is Africa really an acceptable choice for a SCAdian persona?” or “Are you going topless now?”

The biggest problem with medieval Africa seems to be that not too many people acknowledge that it exists.

An example, please bear with me: I was reading a couple of posts on a mailing list I follow for the SCA. A knowledgeable, nameless poster was attempting to encourage a newbie (who happened to be a POC) to choose whatever culture they felt most comfortable with. Roughly “we can choose all types of cultures. Japanese, Mongol, all of Europe, the Middle East, the New World, and even Africa.”

Even Africa.

Surely there is no more of a preposterous culture to personify in the Middle Ages as Africa, complete with its bands of savages and mud huts, yes? Not Japan, whose roster of people visiting medieval Europe (correct me if I’m wrong) was about six during the tail end of the 16th century, while Africans as far as the Congo and modern day Nigeria had been living and corresponding with Portuguese settlers and merchants since the 1400s and earlier, in some cases.

Don’t believe me?


And Here

Oh, and Here

Wait, wait, wait…This, too

And don’t forget this, this, this, and this

I know what you’re thinking. “Kehinde, if medieval western Africa were such a big deal, wouldn’t everyone know about it?”

Of course everyone knows about it. It’s not a giant black-hating conspiracy. I think it might be rather the opposite, though. A lot of ignorance I’ve encountered has been from people whose education on African history is limited to slavery in the United States. They’ve spent childhoods and adolescence being told that Africans were slaves.

“Essentially, Europeans were perpetrators and Africans were victims, and that’s terrible. The end.”

Nevermind that the slave trade was thriving during the High Middle Ages so that local chiefs could trade members of their chiefdoms for things like, oh, I dunno…crossbows. With the permission of Catholic leaders, newly converted chiefs and kings could do business with the Portuguese without worrying about becoming slaves themselves. Granted, some kings objected, but local leaders were only to happy to bypass them and set up new contracts with the Portuguese. Africans and Portuguese lived together at that point, with Africans taking Portuguese wives and visiting court and everything.

“From the very beginning the King of Kongo was treated with great respect by the Portuguese; the Ambassador who arrived in 1491 kissed his hand according to the custom of the Portuguese court, and brought assurances of friendship from John II. But the Europeans never doubted that the Kongo Authorities would wish to remodel their way of living upon the pattern of that of their Portuguese visitors as soon as possible. Masons, carpenters and artisans came out with the 1491 expedition; they arrived furnished with all the tools of their trade, and in many cases their wives accompanied them, bringing Portuguese cooking utensils.”

And also:

“In all Affonso sent more than twenty of his children, nephews and grandchildren to Portugal to study, but he was also anxious to make provision for the children who remained in Africa, building schools and pleading for Portuguese missionaries and teachers. In 1515 a newly arrived missionary reported enthusiastically on the school at Mbanza Kongo, where over a thousand sons of the Kongo nobility were learning to read and write, and were studying grammar, the humanities, and the Christian faith.”


“It appears that the relationships between Portuguese and Kongo People in the Reign of Dom Affonso usually continued to be those of mutual respect. When Simon da Silva went to the Kongo as Portuguese Ambassador in 1513, he was ordered to treat Dom Affonso as a King, not as a tributary of the Portuguese crown; he was not to govern but to aid and advise the King of Kongo; he was to model the Kongo court on the pattern of Lisbon but always at the wish and with the consent of Dom Affonso, for the King of Portugal did not wish to occupy and conquer the Kongo, but only to open the way for Portuguese trade and for Christian missionaries.’ Europeans followed the same etiquette at the court of the King of Kongo as they would have done at Lisbon.”

So, now what?

Several medieval kingdoms of Western Africa are now cool to play with. Yoruba kingdoms and republics, Edo, Benin, the Kongo, even Portuguese-heavy settlements like Badagry (Gbagle) and Lagos (Eko). Research to your heart’s content; it’s good for you. There are nearly two centuries of completely free reign for people interested in Africa beyond the Muslim spread up north. Jump in! It’s gonna be a blast.

You’ll be glad you did. Promise.

As a footnote, the source for the quoted areas can be found here, along with maps and some language information. Until I get more definitive sources to back them up, go ahead and take it with a grain of salt. If any of this information is found to be false, please bring it to my attention so that I may remove it.