Rhodesian Tapestry

Section of the Rhodesian tapestry. Section of the Rhodesian tapestry.

The Rhodesian tapestry is a series of embroidered panels that depict various elements of Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) history. The original plans for the tapestry date back to 1946, when Lady Kate Tait, wife of the then (ex-) Governor of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Campbell Tait, suggested that an embroidery should be made that depicted the “cardinal events in Rhodesian history on the lines of the Bayeux Tapestry” (Ransford 1971:4).

A committee was set up and various members of the Rhodesian Women’s Institute volunteered to carry out the work. A series of 42 panels was designed relevant to the history of the country, with a strong emphasis on nineteenth and twentieth century colonial and missionary developments.

The panels were designed to display “harmonious uniformity of design, of materials used, of colour shading and of stitching techniques” (Ransford 1971:4). They were worked in linen that was woven in Switzerland, and decorated with 1500 skeins of specially dyed Swiss embroidery cotton. The Rhodesian Tapestry committee judged whether the stitching was good enough (various panels were unpicked) or if the artistic sensibilities were acceptable; historical accuracy was regarded as less important than these sensibilities. The embroidery was presented to the Speaker of the House of Parliament in 1963 as a “memorial to the country’s pioneer women” (Ransford 1971:5). It was hung in the Members Dining Hall. In 1965, Rhodesia (unilaterally) declared its independence from Britain and, after a civil war, became known as Zimbabwe in 1979. The panels were then removed from the House of Parliament and are currently on display in the National Museum, in Bulawayo.

Source: RANSFORD, Oliver (1971). Rhodesian Tapestry: A History in Needlework, Bulawayo, Books of Rhodesia Publishing Co.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 20 June 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 19 April 2017 11:30