Book Review:
African Folklore Embroidery

Pat Winter © 2008

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Title: Safari Through African Folklore Embroidery
Author: Leora Raikin
Publisher: African Folklore Embroidery 2007
Soft cover: 84 pages
ISBN: 978-0-615-21027-8
Contact: email~  website~ 

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Leora Raikin at the International Quilt Show in Chicago. Her attractive colorful projects enticed me to her booth. I viewed various brightly colored embroideries stitched on black fabric that were very striking and certainly caught my interest. As I browsed further I discovered she offered hand dyed silk ribbons and various threads in amazing colorways.

Leora saw my interest and informed me about her art and her mission. I knew immediately that she was more than a vendor trying to peddle her wares. Her heart was in her work, and her work was to better the lives of African women and their families through her art. I love it when you find an artist who gives back, and Leora most definitely gives back.

Leora’s new book, Safari Through African Embroidery, is filled with her rich history of growing up in Cape Town, South Africa. Within its eighty-four colorfully illustrated pages, Leora not only offers beautiful stitching designs with instructions, but she educates her readers about South Africa’s people, its tradition, and the problems of this contradictory country. It is an island of First World industry surrounded by Third World poverty with over thirty percent of the people being unemployed and approximately five million infected with HIV/AIDS.

What does this have to do with stitching? Leora’s embroidery threads, ribbons, and designs are from Africa. She has created a bridge to help her country and at the same time, offer her art to all. By employing African women, they have the opportunity to help provide for their families while building confidence and self esteem in themselves. She is also involved with a program called Kidzpositive which provides employment for mothers with AIDS. This book offers too much for me to even touch on as it describes meaning of the embroidery designs, South African history, and brings awareness to sometimes forgotten issues that need our attention.

This is a wonderful way to introduce children to embroidery while teaching them some history too. Leora lectures and teaches at many schools, institutions, guilds, and art centers throughout the United States and abroad. She encourages others to teach African Folklore Embroidery to other organizations like the Girl Scouts and guilds by offering kits and teaching packages. If you are interested, Leora will be at the International Quilt Show in Houston this fall. You won’t miss her, just look for the beautiful contrast of bright colorful embroidery on black fabric designs, or just listen for her charming accent.

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