Object: Mat

E/1971/2/3
Mat or fai-fai
Nigeria
ca. 1970
Materials: Grass, and dyed strips of doum palm leaves

This object is a mat made of grass that has been wrapped with dyed strips of doum palm leaves, sometimes called a fai-fai. Mats like this one are common in Nigeria and are typically used in the kitchen, where they have many uses, including being a fan for a fire, a pot holder, or lid.

The dyed outer surface of the mat is made from the leaves of the doum palm (Hyphaene thebaica). This type of tree is native to Africa and grows from Mauritania to Egypt, from Senegal to Central Africa and east to Tanzania. They tend to grow close to groundwater and can be found in oases and wadis, and is widely distributed near rivers and streams. These palm trees produce an edible fruit but are also prized for their leaves and roots which are widely used for making baskets, nets, brooms, and even some rough textiles.

Aside from its basic identification, the museum catalog contains very little information on this object, can you help us? Do you know anything about this type of mat or the people who made it? [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

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