Sarah Fee

Sarah Fee

Curator (Eastern Hemisphere Textiles & Fashion)

Area: World Cultures, Textiles & Fashions

Exhibitions & Galleries: Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume


B.A. Anthropology, Grinnell College, USA
MSt (Distinction) Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK
PhD Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO), Paris, France

Dr. Fee joined the ROM in April, 2009, as Associate Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Textiles and Costume.  She is responsible for the ROM's renowned collection of ca. 15,000 textile-related pieces that come from Asia, Africa and the Islamic world.

With training in anthropology and African studies, Sarah's major research focuses on the island of Madagascar. For four years she lived in south of the island, amongst the Tandroy cattle herders, where she learned to spin, dye and weave with village women, and appreciate the deep social significance of cloth. She later returned to study hand weaving and dress across the island, which led to the exhibition "Gifts and Blessings, The Textile Arts of Madagascar", 2002, NMAfA, Smithsonian Institution. With Georges Heurtebize, she founded Berenty, the Tandroy Ethnographic Museum, in Berenty, Madagascar.

Most recently her interests have spread  to the dress and weaving traditions of the Indian Ocean which have historically influenced and interconnected with those of Madagascar, including Southeast Asia, East Africa, Southern Arabia, and India. Thematic interests include textile trades, cross-cultural appropriations of cloth, gender, ceremonial exchange, spinning and dye technologies.

Dr. Fee is cross-appointed to the Art Department, University of Toronto. She is a Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, a Chercheuse Affiliée at the musée du quai Branly, and a Board Director at Large of the Textile Society of America.

Recent Publications

Year Publication
2012 "Historic Handweaving in Highlands Madagascar: New insights from a vernacular text attributed to a royal diviner healer, c. 1870." Textile History, 43, 1, 62-84.
2011 "The political economy of an art form: the akotifahana cloth of Madagascar and trade networks in the Southwest Indian Ocean." Textile Economies. Power and Value from the Local to the Transnational, Walter Little and Patricia Macaulney, eds., Lanham: Altamira Press, 77-100.
2011 "Not for art’s sake: an early exhibition of Pre-columbiana at the Toledo Museum of Art, 1928-29." Museum Anthropology, 34, 1, 13-27.
2011 "Futa Benadir: A Somali Tradition within the Folds of the Western Indian Ocean." Africa Interweave. Textile Diasporas, Susan Cooksey ed., Gainseville: University of Florida Harn Art Museum, 120-127.
2009 Sarah Fee and Bako Rasoarifetra. "Recipes from the Past: highland textile dyes in 19th century Merina sources ." Etudes Océan Indien, 42-43, 143-174.
2005 "Ze mañeva aze. Looking for patterns in Malagasy textiles." Textiles in Indian Ocean Societies, Ruth Barnes and David Parkin, eds., London: Routledge, 85-109.
2004 "Textile traditions of Southwest Madagascar." Unwrapping Madagascar's Textile Traditions, Chap Kusimba, Claire Odland and Ben Bronson, eds., Los Angeles: Fowler Museum/The Field Museum of Natural History, 92-111.
2002 "Textiles in Motion: Madagascar's Textiles through History." Objects as Envoys: Cloth, Diplomacy and Imagery in Madagascar, Christine Kreamer and Sarah Fee, eds., Seattle: University of Washington Press, 33-94.
2001 "2001 What the Kokolampo taught her: Myths on the origin of weaving in Androy." Etudes Océan Indien, 32, 83-106.
2000 "Enga: further descriptive notes on Tandroy funerary exchange." L'extraordinaire et le quotidien. Variations anthropologiques, Claude Allibert and Narivelo Rajaonarimanana, eds., Paris: Karthala, 523-530.
1996 Narivelo Rajaonarimanana and Sarah Fee. Dictionnaire Malgache dialectal-français : dialecte tandroy, Paris: l'Asiathèque

Research Projects

Veronika Gervers Research Fellowship, supported by a memorial fund established in 1979 to commemorate ROM curator and textile scholar,

The ROM is home to over 50,000 textiles and costumes. Fifty-four of these come from the African island of Madagascar.