Kangas from the Lost Sample Book

Part of COTTON: Global Threads, Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester 2012

Leave the State of Unbelonging - Lubaina Himid
Leave the State of Unbelonging – Lubaina Himid   Photo: Denise Swanson FBIPP

Invented texts that evoke a sense of impending danger coupled with our dogged desire to survive.

Lubaina Himid is a painter whose recent work has centred on effective ways for artists to broaden relationships with museums. Using the often hidden or neglected objects in collections she works with curators to broker conversations between these objects, museums and audiences, bridging the gaps between the histories and contemporary life. At the Whitworth, working with the textile department team, she examined the Gallerys small group of 20th century East African kangas, taking photographs and making preparatory drawings. She has compared these with her own kanga collection, using the many patterns and motifs from both groups to make new work on paper. Referencing the Swahili sayings or slogans found on traditional kangas this series of large paper works, entitled Kangas from the lost sample book (2011/12), uses invented texts that evoke a sense of impending danger coupled with our dogged desire to survive.

Images filled with pattern and intriguing slogans line the walls, from an imaginary ‘Lost Sample Book’. Accompanying them are framed portraits, collages of women.


“Cotton is the best-selling and most widely used fibre in the world. Its manufacture has exposed both the promise and the perils of global capitalism, and no other industry is so closely associated with the exploitation of human labour – from the slave plantations of the US and Marx and Engels’ ‘satanic mills’ of Lancashire to the garment factories of South China today,”

“We want to use this exhibition to tell its important story, not only from an artistic perspective, but also economically and ethically.”

Curator Jennifer Harris


Kangas from the Lost Sample Book - Lubaina Himid. Photo: ©Denise Swanson
Kangas from the Lost Sample Book – Lubaina Himid.  Photo: Denise Swanson FBIPP



Although most of us put cotton against our skin almost everyday, in the form of socks and T-shirts, the story of cotton is far from everyday, which is why it has been turned into an extensive exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.

Cotton: Global Threads, which opens tomorrow, gives a global history of the production, consumption and trade in cotton, featuring pieces from the Middle Ages to the present day. New commissions by contemporary artists, including Yinka Shonibare and Lubaina Himid, will hang alongside the gallery’s permanent textile collection.

The Independent – Picture preview

The Independent Review

Culture 24 Review


From 11 February to 13 May 2012

For more information on Cotton Global Threads visit:





Kangas from the Lost Sample Book