The beautiful traditional fabrics used by Petel are created by the Fulani tribe in West Africa for various ceremonial events. A group of artisans, or MabuuBe, typically create weavings and pottery, but other groups such as the Iron workers group may receive the blessing of the artisan group and create the textiles as well. This manner of dividing tasks in traditional African society is fairly common. Although the women are the only ones who wear the traditional leppi, or woven fabrics, it is the men that complete the act of weaving in this patriarchal society.
The making of leppi is time consuming and laborious. The leppi maker, known as the CaNoowo, takes between three to four weeks to make a complete unit. This complete unit is called a woodeere, and is composed of four woven strips sold as a set. Threads of varying colors are attached to a stone on one end with the weaving part, or CaNiirngal, at the opposing end. The CaNoowo, uses a boat shuttle to criss-cross between these horizontal threads. This repeated movement is tiresome and is part of the reason that the younger generation is not willing to learn the trade. Petel believes that an increased appreciation for these textiles in the West will inspire and motivate the younger Fulani generation to learn and perfect the trade.
Our textiles are part of the ceremonial fabric of the Fulani tribe. In the Fuuta Toro (border of Senegal and Mauritania), they are used as veils for brides, newborn blankets, and, in some instances, to cover a widow’s head. In addition to these usages, these textiles are used as decorative accessories by Fulani women, as they are one of the most expensive pieces of fashion owned by Fulani women.