This blanket or khasa, woven by a Fulani man from Mali in West Africa during the 1950s or 1960s, is part of a collection of West African textiles collected by Dr C Marion Petrie. Dr Petrie was an employee of the British Colonial Service in Nigeria and Ghana between 1957 and 1966. It was purchased by her in Zaria in northern Nigeria.
Many of the Fulani people of Northern Nigeria are pastoral nomads. During the winter months of November to January, Fulani cattle herders (Wodaabe) need protection from the cold, as well as from mosquitoes. These blankets were produced to meet this need. After being used by the Fulani herders, most of the blankets are sold to traders, after which they are repaired and traded throughout other areas of West Africa. Consequently there are numerous second hand khasa like this example in existence today. The Ashanti use these second hand Fulani blankets as a status symbol, for example to cover their drums, as they don't need blankets in their warm climate.
The khasa was manufactured on a men's double-heddle loom, probably by a hereditary male Maboube weaver. The cloth consists of six narrow strips of fabric, which were then sewn together to make the blanket. The materials are sheep's wool, and possibly cotton, handspun and hand dyed by Fulani women and sold by them in the market place. Blankets like this were only made when commissioned by a Fulani man, who would have been responsible for buying the yarns required and arranging for the warp to be prepared for the weaver. The background of the cloth is a natural cream wool colour, while the supplementary wefts are largely black, with the occasionally red and yellow. Towards each end of the cloth is a red weft stripe with white supplementary weft pattern motifs incorporated into it. Patterns included in the design are lines, spots, triangles, lozenges and chevrons which depict Fulani myths and pastoral life symbolically. The blanket, like all Fulani blankets, is very heavy.
Khasa were important to the Fulani nomads, who depended on their weight and thickness for protection against the elements. While blankets such as this are by no means rare (being traded second hand throughout West Africa), they nonetheless have considerable historical and cultural significance. This example is characteristic of higher quality Fulani blankets, as evident in the inclusion of a several different colours and the range of design elements. Cheaper khasa are plain white.