Inspired by Africa: How a BC quilter’s art went from West Coast to wild

When Pippa Moore, our January speaker, first left Canada to spend three years in Lesotho in Southern Africa, she took along a quilt she was working on. It was in blues, off-whites and muted forest green. Pippa Moore BC quilt 2

Things changed once she found herself entranced by the vibrant, saturated colours much loved by the African women she set out to support with a grassroots project aimed at teaching them to sew and provide for their families. These “widows and grannies” inspired her with their ability to find joy in seemingly ordinary things, even surrounded as they were by trying circumstances.

In addition to vivid colours, her quilting moved towards more improvisational art, in the tradition of the Gee’s Bend quilters, and she relished the freedom of allowing the fabrics and subject matter to take her in new artistic directions to tell the stories of her African experiences. She likes to use saturated black solids alongside the African fabrics to give the eye “a place to rest”. The end result is arresting art quilts filled with layers of shape, pattern, movement and depth. Fabrics are gathered from many countries, including Egypt, Uganda and South Africa, and range from monochromatic mud cloth to indigo shweshwe.


Her talk gave fascinating insights into how each quilt came to be: for instance, in “There’s an Elephant in my Garden”, she enjoyed pitting the wildness of an elephant against vivid art deco foliage. “Rosetta’s Hope” shows an African women at work in her vegetable garden, made possible by an initiative that brought water to that community (her husband’s work was with this NGO).

Pippa and her husband continue to support the Bitengye Designers, as the group of women she taught to sew call themselves, in part by selling items they have made (some were on sale after our meeting). Proceeds also go to a Widows’ Garden project in Uganda.

More recently, she’s begun to incorporate found objects, such as pottery shards, beads, porcupine quills, shells and leaves into her smaller, newer pieces, all inspired by Africa. Her latest series will be on display in the summer, from July 21st – 28th, at the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery on Vancouver Island.

You can see more of Pippa’s work and read more about her story on her website.

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