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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Aesthetics of communication: texts on textiles ('leso') from the East African coast (Swahili)
Author:Beck, Rose MarieISNI
Periodical:Research in African Literatures
Geographic term:East Africa
External link:http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/research_in_african_literatures/v031/31.4beck.pdf
Abstract:The 'leso', a wrap cloth, also known as 'panga', is an object of everyday use on which proverbial art is visually represented in writing. It serves as a means of equivocal interpersonal communication, which is achieved by playing on processes of (communicative and semiotic) representation. The 'leso' appeared in Zanzibar around 1875. With the actual abolition of slavery (in the late 1890s) it became the means and visible sign of integration of former slaves and immigrants from the African mainland into the Swahili-Muslim East African communities. The 'leso' to this day connotes aspects of gender and status that originate from the (former) female slave population, and is associated with sexuality or serves as an important garb in female initiation and possession societies. Most texts can formally be compared with proverbs. Quite a number of the texts stem from popular contemporary music. The visual characteristics of the 'leso' are used to equivocate not only about the message, the sender, the addressee or the context. Equivocation in the case of the 'leso' is intricately linked to its immense variety of patterns, colours, and inscriptions, and its variability of usage. Also, the signification process that translates verbal art into the visual realm, or rather transforms spoken into visual communication, plays an important role. Bibliogr., notes, ref.