nkante

Traditional African Leatherwork

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nkante   

I recently started working with leather and hides and was wondering if anyone knew anything about traditional leather working in Africa. All my research turns up information about modern leather working. I am interested in the old ways and am hoping some of you folks could point me in the right direction.

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That is a good one. I have done a ton of research into old leatherworking techniques etc, and have never seen any african references, besides mentions of tanning in morocco and the middle east. Apparently alum tanning is prevalent in desert regions. That is all i know... However i would like to hear anything you do find.

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nkante   

I was able to find some information regarding tanning in Morocco. But that is really it.... beside a sentence or 2 about how the Zulu made their shields. Both cultures use cow urine. The Zulu would bury the shields in the dirt under the cattle pens for a time. Moroccans use a mixture of cow urine, quick lime, salt and water in the first step of tanning. If I knew the proportions of each I would try it.

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I recently got given some wonderful riempies leather made out of steenbok skin that was tanned and prepped by a bushman tracker over 60 years ago. Apparently the animal was skinned and the skin was sun dried and then simply scraped with a knife to thin it and then worked by hand till it is soft. It has an amazing texture and is unbelievably thin and strong. But even after all these years still smells pretty rough. I know also that aardvark leather used to be alum tanned into riempies which was worked soft by tying them in a continuous loop to a rock suspended beneath a tree. the rock was then spun till the was up in the tree. Then it was released to spin down and wind up again. This was done A Lot to make the riempies strong and supple. And apparently a single strand could be used to tether a bull. Not sure of the truth of it all but that is what I was told.

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