Monday, 16 May 2011

Muntaka Musa comments on Leeds Hausa Hats

Muntaka Musa is a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, who is studying for an MSc in Design at the University of Leeds this year. Following a conversation during an Islamic display at Parkinson Court he kindly agreed to comment on Leeds Museums' Hausa collections. The Hausa people live in northern Nigeria. Muntaka Musa is himself from Katsina, capital of Katsina state. These photographs show Muntaka with his own hat, a hat with geometric hand embroidery of high quality, the sort of hat which is known by a local name that translates as 'See You at the Bank'. The textile design with sharks is his own work.

Amongst the museum's Hausa collection is one hat similar to Muntaka's, with blue on yellow hand embroidery, and another of even finer more detailed stitching of three bands of geometric design topped by a cream silk thread bound knob.

The rest of the Leeds Hausa hats are of lesser quality. The knitted hat, with bright mauve diamonds and triangles on a green ground, would have been made with a circular needle and a smaller hooked needle. Tha Hausa name for this type of knitting is Kwarashi. The museum's hat is made of cotton, but they are often made from wool, and are popular urban wear for poorer people, being very cheap to buy. A machine embroidered one, with a design of elephants and camels, would definitely have had the design pencil sketched onto the fabric first. The plain cream cotton stitched hat, with several different stitching patterns, would be made without a preparatory sketch, and the design is known by a Hausa phrase which translates as a 'thousand punches'. A very new looking hat, unworn, made from deep blue silk velvet with rows of elephants, is probably an experiment with a left over piece of fabric, an experiment which went wrong, as the elephants are all upside down.

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