The Capeverdean pano - a unique handicraft

by Olav Aalberg: badiu "at" tabanka.no

The Capeverdean pano is a cloth made with classic African narrow strip weawing tevhnique. A pano is a unique piece of handicraft. Although panos can be found all over West-Africa, the  intricate patterns of a pano from Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau (and, to a certain extent, small areas in the south of Senegal (Casamance region) are the most advanced to be found.

If you are looking for something special to take home from Cape Verde, look out for these beautifully handicrafted cloths, weaved with careful attention in the interior of Santiago.

Buying a pano is not like buying any piece of cloth. It is getting a glimpse into a past of our common history. To visit a weaving centre, go to the artesanal centre at São Domingos, 20 minutes north of the capital, Praia.

The pano is made on simple weaving chairs. It is always made of six narrow strips. They can be divided into three main types:

The difference lies in the complexity of the pattern and hence the setup of the weaving threads. It takes six days to make a pano bicho, A pano d´obra keep two persons busy for 12 days!

History
When the Portuguese began to import slaves from the coast between the Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, they also brought skilled weavers from the fula, mandinga, and manjaco people. Cotton was planted, and the original blue color came from a local plant called urzela.

Exactly how their panos were originally, is lost in time, but the panos as we know them from the Cape Verde, is a beautiful mixture of Arabic-Moslem, and African traditional patterns.

The quality of the Capeverdean panos were appreciated all over the Guinea-coast. Trading there in the 16th and 17th century was considered almost impossible without stopping by Cape Verde to get panos to put into the bargain!

....

The photos show how women carried a pano 100 years ago, and today. The photo below shows a brand new pano, made by Henrique Sanches in 2002.

The pano today
Today, the cotton used in the production of pano, is imported. The colour is most commonly black on white. Most panos are of the pano bicho type, as they are faster and cheaper to produce.

In addition very few people today knows how to set up and make a pano d´obra, making them hard to come by.

Henrique Sanches, still a young man, is one of the very few. He learned the art from his (now deceeased) uncle. Dedicating his life to preserving the art, Henrique today divides his time between pano production, and teaching the art to young people at trhe artesanal centre at São Domingos, 20 minutes north of the capital, Praia.

Contact: Henrique Sanches: Tel: +238 994 24 15

Want to read more?

Cape Verde start page