Thursday, February 26, 2009

Liberian Lapas and LOEP

Here are three members of the LOEP Team proudly wearing our gifted Lapas in the style that has become popular thanks to Madame President - Ellen Sirleaf of Liberia. Many women now wear lapas as a "shoulder piece" over dresses and suits.
This little one rides snug and safe in her lapa.

This market lady wears her lapas in the classic fashion - under-skirt, over-skirt and on her head as a head wrap. With all these lapas, she is ready for most anything!

Lapas and LOEP

All four members of the LOEP Team are completely smitten with African "lapas". In fact, even Brenda, the Liberian member of the LOEP team, became so attached to one of her lapas that she walked around the market hugging the thickly folded, beautifully printed fabric to her chest and only reluctantly gave it up to have a seamstress sew it into a beautiful African style gown. We loved the fabrics so much that our new friends, the teachers at Lott Carey, presented each of us with a Lapa as a parting gift. We really love lapas!

Lapas are the lengths of brightly printed, woven cloth that look so spectacularly and distinctively African. The lengths of cloth are generally sold in 3 lapa lengths (about 6 yards) and serve as highly practical and essential multi-purpose items in the African household. The same lengths of cloth are also used as wearable items and accessories in African fashion.

African women use full length lapas for everything from carrying babies to wrapping loose items into huge hobo-like bundles to carry on the head to market (and everywhere else). Twisted and rolled into little nest-like bundles, the lapa is placed on top of the head to cushion large, heavy items such as coolers and filled, 10 gallon water jugs (!). It can be spread on the ground to display market wares and produce and to catch nuts shaken from a tree.

Classic African attire for women is the lapa wrapped and tucked securely around the waist as a full-length skirt. A second lapa is wrapped over the first under-skirt. The over-wrap serves as a handy apron that can also be unwrapped if it is needed for a baby, a head bundle, a beautiful, regal-looking head tie or unfolded and draped around the shoulders it can serve as a shawl/wrap against the early morning chill - an amazing all-purpose item, the lapa.

There are several distinctly African textiles used for lapas. In Liberia, the most commonly found are the least expensive lapa fabrics. Generally 100% cotton, the most popular ones are those that are wax printed. According to one expert description of this type of lapa fabric:

For most people, the phrase "African fabric" evokes images of African women dressed in colourful wrap-arounds or fantastically tailored dresses, in many cases made from African wax print fabrics.
These fabrics started their life during the industrial revolution in Europe, where they were made for export to Africa. They have now become very much a part of West African culture and are gradually spreading further afield across the continent and to ethnic markets in the UK, Europe and America.

African wax print fabrics are printed using a unique mechanical process developed to imitate handmade Indonesian batik. The technique is now used exclusively to produce African wax print fabrics.

1 comment:

  1. Wow this is amazing! This fabric seems beautiful.
    How much is it to buy 3 lapas of fabric?