A colourful festival celebrating fortune and prophecy; a sign of better times to come.
It is late February, and the small town of Dédougou in Burkina Faso is coming to the end of a harsh dry season; the grim conditions have depleted all water sources, leaving the surrounding wildlife facing starvation if the drought continues. The local animals know their fortunes must change, and fast.
At this time of year, many people travel to the town for the annual celebration of masks and costumes, ancient spiritual rituals and divination ceremonies. The festival is over, and the site now lies cracked and deserted, debris and paraphernalia strewn in the dust. As the molten sun rises, the wildlife pick their way through the remnants of the celebration, hungry and exhausted. They find intricately carved gold weights (mbrammoo), itombwa, cowrie shells and even discarded costumes amongst the sticks and dirt. Crafty and playful even when hungry, the painted wolves slip into the ornate outfits and begin to prance and leap, mimicking the human dancers from the previous night.
A young cheetah wanders into the clearing and clumsily trips, sending him tumbling head over tail. Bewildered, he exclaims and flips himself around to reveal the offending object discarded by a tourist: a small pack of playing cards lying in the dust. The word ‘Tarot’ is elegantly scrawled across the pack. Gathering to investigate the commotion, the creatures are curious, momentarily distracted from their hunger. The hoopoe birds gently loosen the binding and turn each card over, revealing delicately painted images of celestial beings, The Star, The Hierophant, The Lovers. Each card they turn is more beautiful than the last, their meanings clouded but intriguing.
As the group assembles, they assess the scene before them; the painted wolves in their splendour, the collection of foraged, divinatory objects, and finally the illustrated cards spread out at their feet. An invisible power rises around them, full of hope and optimism, light and celebration, fortune and prophecy, and they know this is the joyful sign they have been waiting for. By combining the two divination techniques, the animals can heal their land and rally the sacred rains to fall. The creatures rejoice and leap into action, their cries and cheers heard across the valley. They sing and dance the rituals of the festival-goers while enacting the scenes of the Tarot, twirling and spinning in their ornate costumes, summoning the spirits to hear their song. After several songs have passed, large, heavy droplets begin to fall from the sky, pooling in vast areas around them. At long last, their fortunes have changed.
This collection is an act of imaginative fusion and is indebted to the centuries of European and African artistry which precede it.
This collection references the playful, colourful and exquisitely hand-crafted masks and costumes celebrated at FESTIMA, the Festival International des Masques et des Arts, held each year in Dédougou, Burkina Faso. FESTIMA unites villages and tribes from countries all over West Africa and was founded to help preserve traditional cultural practices in the modern age. Although originating from varied tribes, the masks' origins are historically associated with Animism (the belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence). The primary events of the festival are the performances, where mask wearers dance, accompanied by musicians playing hand drums, whistles, and balafons. The exquisite portrait book ‘MASKE’ by Phyllis Galembo was a huge help in researching the origins, details and variety within the costumes. Intricately designed Akan (or Ashanti) gold weights (mbrammoo) feature heavily throughout this collection, alongside small Kuba divination carvings (itombwa), both often created in animal forms. Tales of the Madebele (nature spirits) summoned by the Sandobele (female diviners) of the Senufo peoples in Burkina Faso also play a part in this story. In the vein of divination, this collection was also based on antique European tarot cards, their symbolisms and their meanings; Each detail on the face of a tarot card holds a key to its significance, and each combination of cards holds a message for the reader. It is said that through divination, whichever method is performed, one can find a wider and deeper understanding of life’s events; It presents an opportunity to help us heal and re-grow.
View the collection illustrations in progress, and see how the drawings transform into detailed and intricate scarf designs. Sabina creates a story for each collection, as shown below, which is then illustrated and narrated through her elaborate handiwork.
Welcome to our Spring/Summer 2021 campaign, Divination Celebration.
Photographer: Kurtiss Lloyd
MUA: Meg Koriat/Sarah Scott
Assistant: Asita Bakayoko
Artwork: Rebecca Coltorti
Shop the Collection
A range of beautiful fabrics are available for each design, from classic silk twill to our sumptuous signature wool and silk blend. Each piece is printed and hand finished by the renowned artisans of Como, Italy.