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 Chercheuse Affiliée at the musée du quai Branly, and from 2010-2014 served as a Board Director at Large of the Textile Society of America.

Recent Publications

Year Publication
2017 "Entangled Histories: an Introduction to The Translocal Textile Trades of eastern Africa." Textile History, 48, 1, a special volume on 'The Translocal Textile Trades of eastern Africa', Sarah Fee and Pedro Machado, guest editors, 4-14.
2017 ""Cloth with Names": Luxury textile imports in eastern Africa, ca. 1800-1885." Textile History, 48, 1, 49-84.
2016 "British Scarlet Broadcloth, the perfect red in eastern Africa, c. 1700-1900." Colors in Fashion, Jonathan Faiers and Mary Westernman Bulgarellea eds., Bloomsbury, London, 187-198.
2015 Sarah Fee. "Before there was Pinterest: Textile Study Rooms in North American “Art” Museums." Proceedings of the Textile Society of American Symposium, Digital Commons, University of Nebraska
2014 Sarah Fee and Noël J. Gueunier. "A forgotten 'hybrid' art: the carved bed panels of nineteenth-century Imerina." Tsingy (Revue du Centre d’Histoire de l’Université de la Réunion), 17
2014 John Vollmer with Sarah Fee. "By Design: Imperial Chinese Dress." Orientations, 45, 4, 108-116.
2013 "The shape of fashion: the historic silk brocades (akotifahana) of highland Madagascar." African Arts , 46, 3, African Arts .
2013 "Materiality and Fashion." In Helen Thomas, Regina Root, Sandy Black, Amy de la Haye, Joanne Entwhistle and Agnes Rocamora, eds. Fashion Studies Handbook. London: Bloomsbury, 301-324.
2013 "Hostage to Cloth: European Explorers in East Africa, 1850-1890." Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 13th Bi-annual Symposium, “Textiles and Politics”
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

An exciting new exhibit at the ROM illuminates the fascinating history of Madagascars woven textiles

The royal court of the island nation of Madagascar – which lies off the coast of East Africa – adopted Western-style dress for itself and its elite military troops many decades before s

In 2014 the ROM celebrates 100 years of existence. This research project maps the early collecting of textiles at the Museum, especially the pioneering work of Charles T.

It is now widely recognized that cloth has linked the world for centuries, if not millennia, and driven much of the global economy since ancient times.


Enter the characters shown in the image.

Authored by: Sarah Fee