Kono (Heddle Pulley)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:
Description

West African weaving looms traditionally use pulleys to raise and lower heddles smoothly. Narrow strip looms have two heddles made up of strings connecting two frames and joined by a cord which passes through a roller.

These heddles were built to last as they had to cope with the rigorous demands of the weaving process. Therefore, much care and craftsmanship would often go into their creation.

The Guro and Baule of the Ivory Coast were known to carve incredibly intricate decorations into their pulleys, giving them an aesthetic as well as functional appeal. While these carvings are not subject to the cultural influence of more personal objects, it is not uncommon for traditions to be reflected in heddle decoration.

Other heddles are much less ornate, with simple, abstract, and crudely whittled pieces also found throughout West Africa.

Heddles, almost always made from wood, can be passed down through generations from senior to junior weavers. At the end of a day’s craft, a weaver would most likely remove the heddle from their loom and take it home. While there, it would be well cared for and frequently oiled, ready for its next use.

Distinguishing Features

  • Basic form of inverted Y
  • Design of opening below head varies:
    • Splayed yoke
    • Isosceles triangle
    • Horse shoe
    • Rectangle
  • Upper part modified to suggest a specific abstract or figurative image
    • Woman carrying food bowl on her head
    • Long, curved hairstyle
    • Animal head or figure
  • S-shaped curve of the forehead, nose, and chin
  • Scarification carved in relief on cheeks of some examples
  • Long, slender neck
  • Some have knob at back of neck
  • Base almost always flares, either from front to back or from side to side
  • Wear marks on heavily used pulleys, where cord traveling the short distance to the horizontal post rubs against the wood and also where the bobbin rubs against the interior walls of the legs

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