“According to an ancient Chinese legend,” writes Jeffrey Eugenides in his 2002 novel Middlesex, “one day in the year 240 BC, Princess Si Ling-chi was sitting under a mulberry tree when a silkworm cocoon fell into her teacup. When she tried to remove it, she noticed that the cocoon had begun to unravel in the hot liquid. She handed the loose end to her maidservant and told her to walk.” Thus was sericulture born. While it is assumed that Asia has a lock on the farming of silkworms, whose cocoons are spun from one mile of filament, silk is also indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa. The DMA presents 19th- and 20th-century silk textiles from Ghana, Nigeria, and Madagascar—works that are strikingly modernist in both patterns and color palette. —L.J.