Petel is committed to exceeding fair wages, worldwide.
The fabric we purchase benefits numerous weavers and their families in Mauritania, as well as artists, sewers and collaborators in San Francisco.
Fulani Fabric From West Africa
The beautiful traditional fabrics most frequently used by Petel are created by the Fulani tribe in West Africa for various ceremonial events. In the Fuuta Toro (border of Senegal and Mauritania), they are used as veils for brides, blankets for newborns, and in some instances, as a covering for widows’ heads. In addition to the ceremonial usages, these textiles are also used as decorative accessories by Fulani women, and they are often one of the most expensive pieces of fashion they own.
A group of artisans, or MabuuBe, typically create weavings and pottery, but other groups, such as the iron workers, may receive the blessing of the artisan group and create the textiles as well. This manner of dividing tasks in traditional West 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.
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 five 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. We believe that an increased appreciation for these textiles globally will inspire and motivate the younger Fulani generation to learn and perfect the trade.
This fabric design process, known as wax stamping, or wax resist, is typically done by women in the Fulani culture. It starts with a hand-carved wood block stamp. Once dipped in hot wax, it is stamped onto white cotton. The cotton piece is then dipped in a bath of hot dye and water to create unique and beautiful color palettes.
Once dyed, the fabric is hung to dry in the hot Saharan sun, and often dipped in various other colors. The wax is then removed by dipping the fabric in boiling water, and once again hung to dry.