West African Loom Pulley

Carved African Loom Pulley

This case study examines a delicately carved object from The Courtauld’s small collection of African sculpture. 

The wooden loom pulley, used in textile weaving, was made by the Guro people of Côte D’Ivoire in West Africa in the late 19th or early 20th century.

The display was researched and prepared by Niamh Collard, a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her doctoral research is concerned with the educational and working lives of narrow-strip weavers in eastern Ghana, having spent a year in the field during which she apprenticed as a weaver.

Part of the Illuminating Objects series: 4 June to 12 November 2014.

detail of a face mask


The Courtauld’s loom pulley most likely depicts a specific type of entertainment mask in miniature form. Looking at the loom pulley from an anthropological perspective can inform us about Guro masquerade traditions. This object [...]
woven textile

The Guro

Guro-speaking people hail from the central belt of Côte D’Ivoire, their land stretching along the western shores of Lac de Kossou. Historically the Guro were seasonal farmers and hunters. Men would take up [...]
loom pulley detail female face

Female Beauty

Female heads are a common subject of carved loom pulleys. The Courtauld’s example has the elaborate hairstyle, scarifications, downcast eyes and open mouth typical of Guro ideals of feminine beauty. At the turn of [...]
weaving textiles

References and Further Reading

[1]  Eberhard Fischer (2008). Guro- Masks, Performances and Master Carvers in Ivory Coast (Munich: Prestel): 4756. Further Reading  Monni Adams (1986) “Review – Masks in Guro Culture by Eberhard Fischer; Lorenz Homberger” African Arts Vol. 20, No.1. Kerstin Bauer (2009) “Côte [...]


I am very grateful to Prof. Trevor Marchand and Prof. Anna Contadini at SOAS, Dr Michaela Oberhofer and Eberhard Fischer at the Rietberg Museum in Zurich and Dr Duncan Clarke for all of their support and help throughout the project, and of course to my friends at the Agotime Weaving Centre in Kpetoe, Ghana, who taught me so much about weaving and what it means to be a craftsperson in West Africa.