Local textile artist Wini McQueen shares love of art, stories from Africa travels

lshirley@macon.comNovember 29, 2013 

Wini McQueen will be at the Sidney Lanier Cottage on Wednesday for a special presentation about her art and travels.

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Textile artist Wini McQueen has made three trips to the Ivory Coast in West Africa, staying about five months each time, to learn about their textile culture. On Wednesday at the Sidney Lanier Cottage, she will display a variety of fabrics and tools from her most recent trip and give a presentation, “How Long Does it Take to Make That?”

“It’s the question people often ask me of a creation. I’ll share some of the details that go into the creation of a particular product, and I’ll display photographs, some large ones, 20-by-30 inches, as well as some of the textiles that I’ve collected, including story narrative fabrics,” McQueen said.

The creation of the textiles begins with village women spinning the yarn that is then passed on to the men, who are the weavers. On her most recent trip, from October 2012 to March 2013, McQueen dyed the fabrics before working with the community to create handbags.

“Some of the people I met in ’94 had invited me to come back and do a project that would bring income to the community,” she said, adding that the return trip 19 years later was especially rewarding for her.

“What I learned from them was not so much technique, though my exploration of ikat (dying process) was very new. I saw how efficient they were, how ancient the art was and how skilled they are, but I came away with a new attitude about textiles and the production and creation of our art objects. And they got their project to bring in income. When I left, they were weaving textiles and much more excited for themselves because they had the experience.”

For some of the villagers, McQueen was the first visitor they had seen since the end of 12 years of civil war.

“Their culture is so different from ours, so basic. It was a real honor for me to be among people who are so self-sufficient,” she said.

McQueen spent time in Korhogo with fabric painters who paint mainly animals and images to be remembered on handspun, hand-woven fabrics, and in Katia with women who spun yarn that men then wove into fabric the length and width needed for making the handbags.

The artist, 70, got some of the young people involved in the dying process.

“We had to move huge amounts of fabrics from the boiling hot dye under the 100-degree sun. At the time it was really harrowing, but I had a sense of creation and history.”

Some of McQueen’s textile pieces will be on sale at the event Wednesday and in the Historic Macon gift shop, and proceeds from those sales will help to bring Zan Stella, “the only woman Ivorian weaver” McQueen has met, to Macon next spring and summer.

“My age and health issues make my going back questionable, and I’ve been there three times. It’s time for them to come here.”

Wini McQueen

When: 5:30 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. presentation Dec. 4

Where: Sidney Lanier Cottage, 935 High St.

Cost: Free for Historic Macon members; $5 non-members; $3 students

Information: 478-742-5084, www.historicmacon.org

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