Textiles from Morocco, China, Ghana and Central Asia

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.

A flag being displayed. ©Karun Collection

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.

“Two men stand by a large boiling pot on a fire; one has his hand in the bubbling liquid, telling a rival company ‘it boils but it doesn’t burn’, asserting that the rival company makes a big show but is not actually dangerous.” Text by Duncan Clarke. ©Karun Collection. 

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.

Silk robe 1890-1905 with chrysanthemums and longevity characters. ©Dante Singaland

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.

Ceremonial robe belonging to a high-ranking Daoist priest circa 1803. Photo by Thomas Lammertz

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.

The cover of Nick’s new book Travellers in the Great Steppe: from the Papal Envoys to the Russian Revolution.

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.

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