OATG members who were unable to attend the recent talk by Nick Fielding – or indeed those who would like to see it again – will be pleased to hear that a recording of this has now been added to our website. Simply go to Events Programme – Online Events – and then enter the password for 2020. This is shown on the inside back cover of our Asian Textiles journal, or contact any committee member for details. A digital copy of the December Lockdown Newsletter has also been added under the Journals section of the website, and again you will need the password to access this.
A reminder of two talks taking place this Saturday 9th January. The first is organised by the Textile Museum, Washington and features Sylvia Fraser-Lu on Burman Textiles. For full details see my blog of 23rd December. Click here to register.
The second event is hosted by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. Craig Diamond will speak on two types of textiles from Mindanao in the Philippines. See my blog of 18th August for a video of Craig talking about these warp ikat cloths known as T’nalak and woven by the Tboli people from banana fibre. Click here to register for this free event.
On Saturday 23rd January Ann Marie Moeller will discuss Small Japanese Treasures from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection at the Textile Museum. Click here for full details and how to register for this free talk.
On Monday 25th January the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles will be hosting a short online talk by Elena Phipps on the subject of a Peruvian cloth woven with four selvedges. This is part of their Lunch & Learn series, but it will be at 8pm in the UK.
Don’t forget we have our own AGM on Saturday 30th January. The formal part of the meeting will be followed by a short Show and Tell of textiles from members’ collections. This is the first time we will have held this event online, so we are seizing this opportunity to invite our overseas members to present one of their textiles. We look forward to “virtually” meeting you all.
Finally I enjoyed many of the images in this online exhibition about headwear. Curated by Stacey W. Miller, The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage, and Spirituality has wonderful examples of headwear from across the globe. This exhibition should have currently been touring several museums in the US. As that has not been possible it has instead been made available online. Several of the images are accompanied by short videos, providing more information about how and when the hats were worn.
In October I blogged about a project looking at Pacific barkcloth. The project was entitled Situating Pacific Barkcloth in Time and Place. I highly recommend taking a look at their website as new material is constantly being added. It has some excellent videos showing how barkcloth is produced and decorated.
The result of this five year project is a new book on barkcloth.
“Barkcloth or tapa, a cloth made from the inner bark of trees, was widely used in place of woven cloth in the Pacific islands until the 19th century. A ubiquitous material, it was integral to the lives of islanders and used for clothing, furnishings and ritual artefacts. Material Approaches to Polynesian Barkcloth takes a new approach to the study of the history of this region through its barkcloth heritage, focusing on the plants themselves and surviving objects in historic collections. ” Publisher’s website.
The collections involved are from the Hunterian, University of Glasgow; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.
The book is divided into 3 parts:-
Part I: Tapa as Fabric: Bast and Colourants
Part II: Understanding Tapa in Time and Place
Part III: Tapa in Collections and the Community
This book is now available to access free online from Sidestone Press here, or you can buy the print version.
For those who would like to learn more about barkcloth (or simply admire photos of some fantastic examples) I suggest the National Museums Scotland website. They have a collection of over 140 barkcloths, some of which were collected by Captain James Cook.
One of the first books we ever bought on the subject of Asian textiles was Handwoven Textiles of South-East Asia by Sylvia Fraser-Lu, so I was delighted to learn that she will be giving an online talk on Burmese textiles next month.
“Sylvia Fraser-Lu’s new book, Textiles in Burman Culture, gives an overview of the history and evolution of textiles made and used by the Burman (Bama) people. This ethnic majority group comprises approximately 70 percent of the present-day population of Burma (Myanmar). The book describes and illustrates textiles made for royalty, religious leaders, and commoners—with information on fibers, dyes, and weaving techniques. Fraser-Lu also explores the importance of cloth in the life cycle, literature, and in trade relations with neighboring states.”
“Colorful photographs feature some of Burma’s most iconic textiles: wave-patterned tapestry-weave lun-taya acheik, embroidered wall hangings (kalaga), and intricately patterned Buddhist manuscript binding ribbons (sa-zi-gyo) made on a card loom. In addition to visiting the major textile centers, Fraser-Lu also ventured into the more remote areas of the Burman heartland to find new information on important lesser known textiles from Rakhine, Yaw, Shwebo, Pyay, and Shan State that have been made for sale in the Burman market.” Textile Museum website
This free online discussion is organised as part of the Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions by the Textile Museum and takes place on 9 January 2021 at 11am EST which is 1600 GMT.
In 2014 the Galloway Hoard was discovered by a metal detectorist. One of the highlights of this hoard was this vessel, which had been wrapped in textiles. Many of the items inside it had also been wrapped in protective textiles, including silk samite, which may have come from a weaving workshop in Byzantium, North Africa or Southern Spain.
Scientists have now been given a grant of £1 million to enable them to further examine the history of this hoard of Viking wealth. National Museums Scotland (NMS) will carry out the three-year project, which is entitled “Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard”, in partnership with the University of Glasgow.
Dr Susanna Harris, Lecturer in Archaeology the University of Glasgow (who has also worked on the textiles from Must Farm), and co-investigator on the project said:-
“The Galloway hoard is the richest, most varied and well-preserved collection of precious and exotic objects surviving from Viking-age Britain and Ireland. Beyond the silver, familiar from most Viking-age hoards, and the much rarer gold, is an unprecedented array of other materials such as bronze, glass, and rock crystal, entangled with the outstandingly rare preservation of organic materials (wood, leather, wool, linen, and silk).
Many objects are wrapped in textiles, including Scotland’s earliest examples of silk, which could have travelled thousands of miles to reach Scotland. These types of wrappings rarely ever survive and are archaeological treasures in their own right. The unusual survival of organic material like textiles will allow us to apply a range of scientific techniques that usually aren’t possible for the precious metals that tend to dominate treasure hoards.
Once we have identified and recorded the textiles wrapping objects, they can be chemically tested for dye to help us reconstruct lost colours which have faded over the centuries since burial, or they can be radiocarbon dated to help us reconstruct the long lives of these objects before they were buried. Certain types of scientific analysis are better suited to particular materials, but with this exceptional range of material we can apply various techniques and learn more about the whole Hoard. Unwrapping the Hoard, literally and figuratively, is a unique and wonderful opportunity.” University of Glasgow website.
An excellent overview of the hoard can be found on the website of National Museums Scotland. This includes several videos of the objects – highly recommended for jewellery lovers!
It’s difficult to be certain, but this portrait of Molotov appears to be chain stitch embroidery on broadcloth. The basic structure and outer motifs in the carpet below appear to be quite classical, but just look at the subject of the central lozenge.
The subject of Soviet propaganda was also examined by Irina Bogoslovskaya at the Textile Society of America Symposium in 2012 in her paper The Soviet “Invasion” of Central Asian Applied Arts: How Artisans Incorporated Communist Political Messages and Symbols. I remember being really struck by the some of the motifs Irina showed during her talk, the full text of which can be downloaded here. In it she states that “a powerful way to show the difference between Czarist and Soviet power was through mass-propaganda art” and explains how this applied not just to Socialist Realism in paintings, but also to textiles, carpets and even china.
The cotton print above celebrates the Turkestan-Siberia Railroad, juxtaposing the images of the traditional method of transport – camels – with the modern railroad. Another very popular motif was agricultural machinery, as featured on this design by Sergei Burylin in 1925.
It seems that in the late 19th century the Russian manufacturers were printing textiles designed to appeal to the Central Asian market – generally with floral motifs on a vivid red background. We often see these textiles used as the lining on ikat chapans. The textile below is quite different in that it is clearly imitating an ikat design. This example was exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and was produced by the factory of Anton Gandurin and Brothers.
The earliest textiles in the collection were hand-blocked and the design was achieved using soot and drying oil. We then move on to examples using madder and mordant dyeing, and later to roller printing. There are lots of ways of searching within the collection. I found the section on agitprop textiles in the 1920s fascinating. Many feel very modern and daring in their designs, but some feel like more of a halfway house, incorporating new motifs such as aeroplanes and stars with the familiar floral elements and colour palette.
It’s also interesting to see how some Central Asian people adopted Soviet motifs. In Turkmenistan short neckties were embroidered by women for their husbands to wear to political meetings. Its clear that these were not traditional apparel as the Turkmen use the word galstuk – borrowed from the Russian – to describe them as there was no word for necktie in Turkmen. The embroidery style and the stitches used were typically Turkmen, but the motifs most definitely were not. Many incorporate important dates, the hammer and sickle, red star, or Kremlin clock tower.
A tush kiyiz is a wall-hanging intended for the interior of a Kyrgyz yurt. This particular example from the collection of the British Museum is far too large for that purpose and may well have been commissioned for a public building.
OATG members David and Sue Richardson have a very similar example in their collection. It was acquired 20 years ago in Bishkek and was said to have been made by an old lady from Novopavlovka. The date 1959 is embroidered on the central triangle. This textile illustrates the bizarre marriage of Soviet thinking and Soviet design with traditional Kyrgyz nomadic folk art. The border has been embroidered using quite thick cotton threads in chain stitch throughout.
The design is a celebration of the Soviet Union, being dominated by circular medallions representing the Soviet Socialist Republics. Most of the medallions conform to a set format, with a rising sun, a hammer and sickle, and some feature of the Republic concerned in the centre, and a frame of the local produce, mainly agricultural, such as wheat, maize, cotton, or trees.
The spaces between these medallions are filled with a variety of wild and domestic animals and birds: a butterfly, a goat, parrot, swan, geese, and cow; a horse, woodpecker and white doves of peace. On the tumar some of the birds, such as the hoopoe and cuckoo, are named and even a Soviet warplane gets in on the act!
Join curators Amber Lincoln and Jago Cooper at 20:00 GMT for a special online tour of the major British Museum Arctic exhibition. They will be celebrating the resourcefulness of Arctic Peoples, exploring 30,000 years of creativity and ingenuity, and addressing the unprecedented pressure that dramatic loss of ice and erratic weather caused by climate change are putting on Indigenous Communities.
You can watch this tour via Facebook or YouTube and for those in time zones which make this difficult it will be recorded and available later.
Several new online talks are scheduled for December. Here is my selection.
On 9 December Selvedge will host three specialists from different areas of the globe talking about the craft of resist dyeing. The speakers are Yoshiko Wada, renowned textile artist and President of the World Shibori Network, Abduljabbar Khatri from the Kutch region of India who specialises in bandhani, in which thousands of tiny knots are hand-tied onto stencilled designs and Sang Made Erass Taman, a leading batik artist who was born on Bali but now lives on Java. Booking is essential – click here for more details.
Don’t forget that our next online lecture will be by journalist and author Nick Fielding, a long-standing member of the OATG. The subject of Nick’s talk is Travellers in the Great Steppe – Nomads and their Textiles.Nick is a very engaging speaker with a wealth of knowledge in this area and this should be a fascinating talk.
This talk is scheduled for 10 December. As usual, it is free for OATG members, but registration is essential. Non-members may attend for a donation of £3 payable via PayPal. Please note there are very few tickets remaining so if you haven’t got yours – act now!
On 12 December the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, in conjunction with rug and textile groups from Seattle, Colorado, San Francisco and Chicago present a free online talk entitled The Beauty of Boteh: A Textile Journey Across Village & Tribal Rugs by Dr Hadi Maktabi, a researcher, author and dealer from Beirut.
“What is the source of the boteh, or paisley, design, and how has it spread throughout the oriental rug world, transforming into both elegant and sophisticated swirling configurations, and more tribal geometric forms? It can be seen in a large variety of rugs and trappings, from high end urban Kermans to rustic Farahans all the way to nomadic Q’ashqais—and that’s just within Qajar Persia. Hadi Makabi’s program will discuss how this famous motif travelled from Kashmir shawls onto Persian textiles and ended up ubiquitously on rugs in the 19th century, by way of costumes and urban decorative pieces. This high-end association influenced rural and ethnic societies irrepressibly. What is wondrous is that the motif is still relevant today and has a seemingly endless variety of reinterpretation.” TMA/SC.
This talk takes place at 10am Pacific time (6pm in the UK) on Saturday 12 December. To register please contact the organiser Cheri Hunter.
Moving from rugs to textiles Fatima Abbadi will discuss Embroidery in the Age of Corona: Documentation and Practice from Iraq, Jordan and the Netherlands for the Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative (IAMCC), Toronto, Canada, on Saturday 19 December at 11am EST (4pm in the UK).
“In this conversation, Fatima will share her passion for Jordanian and Palestinian embroidery traditions and her ongoing project to teach embroidery in the Netherlands. She will also talk about the work of Suzan Sukari, a contemporary embroiderer from a Christian community in the northern Iraqi city of Qaraqosh. Despite the upheavals of war in her region, Suzan continues to produce special festive garments (charuga), that combine age-old designs and motifs with newly developed iconography representing scenes from everyday life. Fatima will also discuss her recent publication, Al-Salt: A Photo Documentary Project, and how she has employed photography to document, promote and preserve her Jordanian culture and heritage.” ROM
Our journal, Asian Textiles, is produced three times each year. In addition to this our editor, Gavin Strachan, is currently putting together a third Lockdown Newsletter, which should go out just before Christmas. If you would like to contribute something to this please email it to him as soon as possible. Perhaps you have an interesting story about a particular textile, a review of a book, a query about something in your collection that you would like to share? If so, Gavin would love to hear from you.
Today, 26 November 2020, is the inaugural Day of Chuvash Embroidery. This festival is associated with the birthday of Ekatherina Iosifovna Efremova (1914-2000) who dedicated her whole life to the study, preservation and development of Chuvash folk embroidery traditions.
Embroidery was the most developed genre of Chuvash decorative applied art. In the 18th to 19th century clothes and ritual objects were richly decorated with embroidery made using a counted thread technique on bleached hemp canvas. The embroidery technique was very diverse; more than 30 kinds of one-side and two-side stitches were used. Embroideries were made mainly with silk and wool threads. The predominant colour was different shades of red. The embroidery was enlivened with small highlights of yellow, green and blue. The embroidery was supplemented with appliqué of red braid and fringes made of threads and beads.
Handmade embroidery in still important in Chuvashia today; there are still numerous seamstresses working, and contests and exhibitions are carried out. In 2015 the Museum of Chuvash Embroidery was opened in Cheboksary.
The above text is translated from the original text, which was written by Kashpar Natalya. All of the images are the copyright of the Russian Museum of Ethnography.
This Saturday, 21 November, OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury will give an online talk on Embroidery from Palestine: Disciplining the Past to Craft the Future. He will speak about his experiences working to document and understand certain techniques of embroidery and rural textile traditions from Palestine. He will focus on the techniques themselves, the people he has worked with, and some of the ideas he has developed along the way.In 2018 he worked on updating the Palestinian textile collection catalogue at the British Museum. Some of this work was under the supervision of our Chair, Helen Wolfe.
“The British Museum’s Palestinian textile collection constitutes one of the largest textile collections at the Museum, with over 1000 pieces, and is one the largest and most extensive in the world. The BM’s collection is unique in so far as it contains men’s, women’s and children’s dress (garments, hats, headdresses and face covers), cosmetic pouches and soft furnishings that roughly cover the period over the last 150 years. Most significantly, it contains day-to-day dress of both genders that is often missing in other notable collections.” – British Museum website.
“The Palestinian textile collection is partly made up of two missionary collections which were acquired by the British Museum in the 1960s; the Church Missionary Society (CMS), and the Jerusalem and East Mission (JEM). These missions collected dress and textiles based on certain orientalist beliefs and historical misconceptions that regarded the 19th century styles of rural Palestine as unchanged since biblical times.” OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury.
During his time at the British Museum OmarJoseph examined the stitching used on the textiles in great detail. He concluded that a particular motif from the south Palestine region (irq-il-loz – almond branch) was not embroidered with stem stitch as had previously been understood, but was in fact produced using a couching technique. He has recently co-authored the book Seventeen Embroidery Techniques from Palestine: An Instruction Manual.
This talk is hosted by the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. It will take place at 1600 GMT and is free, but advance registration is required.
This event is part of an eight-part monthly series entitled “Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future,” an initiative of the Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative (IAMCC), Toronto, Canada. There are several talks featuring Asian textiles. For more information click here. If you have any questions or want to be added to the IAMCC mailing list, please email Dr Fahmida Suleman, Curator, Islamic Art and Culture, Royal Ontario Museum.
Regular readers may remember that in my previous blog I wrote about the Textiles on the Move online conference, explaining that videos of the full proceedings were now available to view. They will only be available until tomorrow, 15 November 2020, so if you still haven’t seen them you need to act fast!
The programme was very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here.
Click here for more information and to access all of the videos .
Last October the Brunei Gallery at SOAS in London hosted a very successful exhibition of African textiles from the renowned collector Karun Thakar. One of the highlights of the exhibition was a group of Asafo flags from Ghana. Now over 250 of these flags form an online exhibition, in which the flags have been divided into three groups by age – 19th century to early 1900s, 1920s to 1957, and 1957 to the 1970s.
Before viewing the flags, I would highly recommend reading the excellent short article Proverbs on Parade by Duncan Clarke, written to accompany it. In it he explains that the Asafo were military associations and that the flags are appliqué- and embroidery-decorated cloth banners, which were produced by local specialists.
“Asafo flags are paraded through the fishing villages and towns of the Fante region in a vibrant tradition that depicts a cast of characters blending local mythology with European heraldry. Kings and queens interact with soldiers and musicians, dragons and gryphons, elephants and leopards, whales and sharks, ships, trains and aeroplanes.” – Duncan Clarke.
Clarke goes on to explain how certain images could only be used by specific groups, and that the use of an image from another group could have dire consequences. He also gives the meaning behind some of these images – many of which are linked to proverbs.
Having read the article I had a better understanding of and appreciation of the flags in the exhibition. You can see a high quality enlargement of each flag by clicking on the relevant image.
Now to two exhibitions on a very different theme. The Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore is showcasing Chinese textiles in the exhibition Fashion Revolution: Chinese dress from late Qing to 1976. We might not be able to travel at the moment, but thankfully a virtual online tour is available. Clicking the arrow in the bottom left of the screen will give you a very quick overview. I then found it easiest to press the View Floor Plan button (just along from the arrow). If you then point to a circle it will bring up information about that particular textile.
The Textile Museum in Krefeld, Germany, has a new exhibition entitled Drachen aus Goldenen Fäden – Dragons from Golden Threads. This exhibition has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix and contains some very special pieces, including the priest’s robe shown below. More information on some of the extraordinary pieces, as well as additional images, can be found in this article by Petra Diederichs for RP Online.
An 18 minute video of the exhibition has also been produced. Even if you don’t speak German it is well worth watching as it is a visual treat!
The Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh has a new exhibition from the collection of Bert Flint, a Dutchman who moved to the city in 1957. He collected textiles, jewellery and other beautiful items from across North Africa, the Shara and the Sahel. He also has a small museum in the heart of the old part of the city.
Our recent online lecture by Sarah Fee was a great success, and we have received lots of positive responses to it. The talk was recorded and will be available for members to view shortly in a password-protected area of our website. A notification of the password will be sent to members.
Our next online lecture will be by journalist and author Nick Fielding, a long-standing member of the OATG. The subject of Nick’s talk is Travellers in the Great Steppe – Nomads and their Textiles. Nick is a very engaging speaker with a wealth of knowledge in this area and this should be a fascinating talk.
This talk is scheduled for 10 December. As usual, it is free for OATG members, but registration is essential. Registration will be open for OATG members EXCLUSIVELY until 20 November (you should have already received the invitation), after which any remaining places will be offered to non-members.
The next edition of Asian Textiles should have reached most members by now. This includes a lengthy article on Naga textiles by Joanna Cole and Julia Nicholson of the Pitt Rivers Museum and another on Pekalongan batik by Maria Wronska-Friend. I’m sure weavers will be fascinated to read the research on a Taiwanese Kahabu flag by Tsai Yu Shan.
Don’t forget that members can access pdf copies of all editions through our website. Non-members can access all but the last three years here
In addition to this our editor, Gavin Strachan, is currently putting together a third Lockdown Newsletter, which should go out just before Christmas. If you would like to contribute something to this please email it to him by 7 December. Perhaps you have an interesting story about a particular textile, a review of a book, a query about something in your collection that you would like to share?
With all of these exciting developments why not consider becoming a member? Although we are the Oxford Asian Textile Group we do have many members from throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Details of how to join can be found here.