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Common Threads: Cloth, Colour, and the Slave Trade in Early Modern Kongo and Angola

by Cécile Fromont

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Charting the origins and significance of the use of two types of specifically colored cloth in west-central Africa, this essay investigates visual, material, and social change in that region during the era of the slave trade. White uniforms worn by Christian church leaders and blue and white imported textiles, it argues, are two key examples that reveal how the inhabitants of the closely related regions of Kongo, Angola, and Loango welcomed and managed the novelties that sustained cross-cultural relations with Europeans, and engagement in the slave trade, ushered in between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries. It reveals profound links between religion, power, the slave trade, and their bearing on central Africa from the early modern period to the eve of the colonial era.

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