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Some references relevant to my current research of the material culture of The Kingdom of Kongo.

From the 1650s (Martin 1986), Dutch, English and French ships began importing cotton, linen and woollen cloth onto African markets via Loango Coast. This substitution of imported cloth for domestic cloth (raffia) meant that the role of the latter as currency had declined (although it continued in circulation well into the 18th century). These imported fabrics often feature in museum collections as part of textile objects and in wood sculpture (one example is in Dennett 1902?).

Imported fabrics mentioned in the literature and their definitions. 

Baft – also baffetas, bafftas – A blue or white cotton produced in India. Also called ‘longcloth’ (Roberts 1992: 600).

Guinea or Guinée cloth–  is a subset of ‘baft’  – cotton, plain, dyed or striped, checkered, initially woven in India and later produced in Europe in imitation. Graded in according to the density ( total number of warps). Roberts mentions 6 varieties from 2280 to 6000 ends. Blue guinee (also called demi guinee) was indigo dyed.

Tapseil  – OED earliest date of use: 1725, a cheap striped cotton, was imported from Bombay and Surat in India [Montgomery (1984). It was included by Milburn among Indian goods [Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996)]. Was seen as a threat to British manufacture and it was prohibited for use in England but was further exported via England to Africa, References: Montgomery (1984), Yule and Burnell (1886, pb 1996).

Calico – at the time unbleached and slightly processed cotton, plain weave.


Dictionary of Trade terms

Dennett, R. E. 1902. The Religion of the Fjort or Fiote. Journal of the Royal African Society, 1 (4). 452-454.

Goody, J. 1996. The East in the West, Cambridge UP.

Martin, Phyllis M. 1986. Power, Cloth and Currency on the Loango Coast. African Economic History 15, 1-12.

Martin, Phyllis M. 1994. Contesting Clothes in Colonial Brazzaville. Journal of African History 35: 401-426.

Montgomery, Florence M. (1984), Textiles in America, 1650-1870: a Dictionary based on Original Documents, Prints and Paintings, American Records, American Merchants’ Papers, Shopkeepers Advertisements, and Pattern Books with Original Swatches of Cloth, a Winterthur/Barra Book, W.W. Norton, New York and George J. McLeod Limited, Toronto.

Yule, Henry and A.C. Burnell (1886, paperback 1996), Hobson-Jobson: the Anglo-Indian Dictionary, new paperback edition taken from the text of the 2nd edition (1902), Wordsworth Editions, Ware, Hertfordshire Title of original edition: Hobson Jobson: being a Glossary of Anglo-Indian colloquial Words and Phrases, : and of Kindred Terms; etymological, historical, geographical, and discursive, by Col. Henry Yule, … and the late Arthur Coke Burnell, published: by John Murray, London The Imperial Dictionary of the English language. 1882.

Fabrics manual 1917.