Erie Art Museum Receives Grant from Coby Foundation for East African Commercial Textiles Exhibit

Erie, PA, September 27, 2006 --( The Erie Art Museum recently was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Coby Foundation, Ltd., to research and plan a major exhibition and catalogue devoted to the two main forms of contemporary commercial East African textiles.

“We typically present 15 exhibits a year in a variety of media. Over the past 33 years, the Museum has earned an excellent reputation for creating and curating exhibits that are first displayed in our galleries and then sent to other museums across the country. “Kanga and Kitenge” will debut at the Erie Art Museum in 2008 and will then tour across the nation,” remarked John Vanco, executive director of the Erie Art Museum.

The goal of the exhibit, according to Vanco, is to create an exhibit and publish a significant catalog devoted to contemporary East African commercial textiles.

 “The Museum’s audience base includes a number of East African refugees, whom we plan to involve in the exhibition through ancillary programming, including a fashion show. There is also substantial interest in the Erie community in African culture, as revealed by the response to Afro-centric programming at the Museum. We anticipate an avid interest in the exhibition and publication from other museums throughout the country, as there is a dearth of exhibitions exploring African subjects,” said Vanco.

East African commercial textiles fall into two major categories, the kanga and kitenge. Kanga--¬large rectangular, bordered cotton wraps used as skirts, tops, headwraps, baby carriers, etc.--are printed with a design that includes an inscription in Swahili. The phrases vary from traditional wisdom to political slogans, apologetic phrases, and Christmas greetings. The kanga occupy an honored place in East African culture.

Kitenge are printed yard goods used, like kanga, for a variety of wraps, and also for African style dresses. Although lacking the Swahili wisdom of the kanga, kitenge are more visually diverse, with patterns of great variety and creativity.

The Coby Foundation, Ltd. focuses solely on funding projects in textiles and needle arts. Funding is limited to nonprofit organizations in the Mid-Atlantic and New England.

“Kanga and Kitenge” will become an exhibit held within the Museum’s permanent collection of more than 5,500 objects, which includes significant works in American ceramics, Tibetan paintings, Indian bronzes, contemporary baskets and a variety of other categories.

For more information on the Erie Art Museum, contact (814) 459-5477 or visit online at

Erie Art Museum
Daniel Stasiewski