Humboldt University of Berlin presents DAOULA / sheen: West African Wild Silk on its Way from November 17, 2022 to April 29, 2023.
The exhibition DAOULA / sheen, which will first be shown in Berlin’s Tieranatomisches Theater in November 2022, focuses on the natural formation and cultural history of wild silk obtained from caterpillars in West Africa, as well as the many and complex ways in which this unique material is viewed by microbiologists, materials scientists, and architects in Germany. This remarkable initiative, co-created by a big and diverse multidisciplinary team, aims to encourage discussion between West African craft, European science, and design.
In Burkina Faso, “daoula” means “sheen” or “charisma.” Daoula is one of the innate traits of some creatures, humans, and things, according to the Marka-Dafing community. Each society, however, has its own unique access to the meaning of and knowledge of daoula: silk producers in Burkina Faso, microbiologists, materials scientists, and architects in Germany all have their own vocabulary and techniques. Microscopes and pipettes have replaced the caterpillar’s mouth, spinner’s spindle, and weaver’s loom in Berlin laboratories.The work with threads is scaled up and evolved into a proposal for human homes in Berlin art school workshops. Daoula, on the other hand, is the result of a group effort: in the West African savannah, wild silkworms of the genus ‘Anaphe/Epanaphe’ set out in search of a suitable tree to collectively build a nest in which each individual spins its own cocoon and begins its metamorphosis. These cocoons are then turned into a valuable resource from which various people in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Nigeria extract the wild silk that is fashioned into distinguished garments. Wild silk cocoons are currently being transported from Safané (Burkina Faso) to Berlin for examination by materials scientists, molecular biologists, anthropologists, cultural scientists, architects, and designers who want to understand what they see, what this material can do, and why it does what it does. Is it something inherent in the material? Is it the result of the spinning and weaving processes? And what are the characteristics of these processes? Is it the result of chemical reactions or bacterial intervention? And where is the sheen that native communities in Burkina Faso prize but that the human eye educated in European traditions finds difficult to recognize? The emphasis of an exhibition that will be displayed first at the Tieranatomisches Theater in Berlin and afterwards at the Musée de la Musique Georges Ouedraogo in Ouagadougou is knowledge and the exchange of knowledge between these various players (Burkina Faso). West African wild silk is on the move, informing and motivating a conversation between West African craft, European science, and design.