Now on display at the Yale University Art Gallery is an Arkilla Kerka, a tent-divider and marriage-bed screen used to seclude the bed of newlyweds. The textile, donated by Shoreline Unitarian Universalist Society in Madison, Connecticut, is 174” x 65¾” and is from the Niafounke region on the interior Niger River delta in Mali. It was woven by Maabube artisans. The MabouBe are a FulBe caste. The Yale University Art Gallery is now open for viewing with timed tickets. The textile is displayed in the African Art galleries.
The textile came to hang in the sanctuary of the shoreline church in 1985 when it was purchased by Curt Grimm while working in the Peace Corps in Mali. Curt’s mother, Lucille Grimm, was president of the Board of Trustees of the church in the 1980s when the church building had a major expansion. Curt and his mother donated the textile in 1985 to provide a decorative art piece displayed behind the pulpit. Curt was “delighted to hear of such a good outcome” as his purchase from an arts and crafts dealer in Bamako, Mali, has made its way to the Yale University Art Gallery.
James Green, Ph.D. is assistant curator of African Art at the Frances and Benjamin Benenson Foundation at the Yale University Art Gallery. He wrote the Shoreline Unitarian Universalist Society: “It’s a beautiful textile, and a classic of its kind . . . . There is no question that it would be of interest to students studying textiles from the Sahel.”
Stephanie Wiles, Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, said of the Marriage Bed-Screen in a letter to the church in 2019: “It is an essential piece of the bride’s equipment, used as a protection as well as an adornment of the bed. This is a classic example; there are several comparative examples in public collections dating from roughly the same time, including one at the British Museum.”
To plan a visit to the Yale University Art Gallery and receive free timed-entry tickets, go to: https://artgallery.yale.edu/visit/plan-your-visit
For more information on Shoreline Unitarian Universalist Society, contact 203-245-8720 or https://www.shorelineunitarian.org/