Exhibition: The Jeweled Isle – Art from Sri Lanka

Kandyan Chief circa 1880-1890

Exhibition dates: 9 December 2018 – 23 June 2019

The first comprehensive survey of Sri Lankan art organised by an American museum, The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka presents some 240 works addressing nearly two millennia of Sri Lankan history.

The image of a bejewelled isle, first invoked in Greco-Roman accounts of Sri Lanka’s precious gems, inspired numerous literary descriptions of the island’s wealth and tropical beauty. The Jeweled Isle includes precious decorative objects fashioned from gold, silver, and ivory, and 19th-century photographs documenting Sri Lanka’s extraordinary monuments, scenery, and flora. Several artworks convey the importance of sacred sites and relics in Sri Lankan Buddhist practice, while rare images of Hindu gods attest to the long and constant interaction between Sri Lanka and South India.

Exquisite ivories, textiles, and furnishings further reflect nearly four centuries of European colonial presence in Sri Lanka and the dynamic interaction between local and foreign visual traditions. Featuring LACMA’s rarely displayed collection of Sri Lankan art—one of the finest and most extensive in the U.S.—the exhibition presents a timely exploration and celebration of a geographically complex, ethnically diverse, and multicultural South Asian hub.

An oil lamp lighting ceremony, followed by traditional Sri Lankan dances and drumming to celebrate the opening of the exhibition, will take place at 10:00 on Sunday December 16 in the Smidt Welcome Plaza. The event will feature performances by the Sri Lanka Foundation Performing Arts and Thath Jith Dance Company.

A comprehensive overview of this exhibition, with a lot of interesting background information can be found on the Asian Art website.

Exhibition location: Resnick Pavilion, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

 

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Event: Costumes and Culture of South West China

Event date: Saturday 15 December, 14:30 – doors open at 14:00

Many ethnic minority groups live in the South West regions of China, often in remote villages far from the explosion of modern Chinese city life. Here in the beautiful mountainous region each village continues to wear distinctive costumes, all hand woven, batiked and embroidered by the women of the area. This talk by Jill Salmons will illustrate the lifestyle of these people and show the various techniques used in order to produce the spectacular, colourful costumes.

Jill will also take a large collection of costumes and textiles from the region to study and enjoy. This will include burnished indigo and embroidered costumes.

This event is £7 for members of selectnetwork (a Stroud-based group) and £10 for non-members. Tea and cake will be served!

For more information click here

Location: Centre for Science & Art, Lansdown, Stroud GL5 1BB

 

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Exhibition: Jomon, The Birth of Art in Prehistoric Japan

Tanabatake Venus, terracotta, Middle Jomon period

Exhibition dates: 17 October – 8 December 2018, 12:00 – 20:00

Closing soon – this is your last chance to see this rare exhibition exploring the art and culture of the Jomon era (11,000-400 BC) in Japan. It is 20 years since the last exhibition was held in Paris in 1998. The show comprises 64 pieces, including six National Treasures and 33 Important Cultural Properties.

The Jomon period began to develop about 13,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period. Around this time, early man had chosen to settle in one place rather than being continuously nomadic, which encouraged the development of hunting and gathering, the creation of utensils for daily use – in terracotta to cook food, and in stone and bone for hunting and fishing. In pottery of the Jomon period, there is an innovative and powerful aesthetic in dogu figurines that is both mysterious and yet full of humour. These pieces are remarkable evidence of the sophistication of the people who created them.

The ice age had ended shortly after the beginning of the Jomon era and the Japanese archipelago enjoyed a mild climate where hunting, fishing and gathering and other settler activities were able to develop. It is the appearance of pottery that marks the beginning of age and the period takes its name from the motifs that were made by pressing ropes into the clay.

The first section of the exhibition explores these 10,000 years of plastic arts through their evolution of shape and the distinctive pottery patterns: nail, finger, rope and shell markings, along with the application of clay and engraved drawings on pots.

The second section is devoted to objects that explore the beliefs and spirituality of the Jomon people. Anthropomorphic dogu (baked clay figurines) are a remarkable example of the aesthetics of the spiritual realm. The majority of the figures are in feminine form, the oldest representing simple busts with generous breasts and are probably related to fertility, harvesting, or food resources.

While infant mortality was high, dogu of pregnant, breastfeeding or childbirth-giving women, as well as children’s handprints on clay plates, seem to express the intense desire of parents to see their offspring to thrive and remain healthy. Other figurines were used in funerary rites or used as ossuary offerings, which shows the relationships of the Jomon people with the afterlife.

Hunting scenes adorning jars and zoomorphic dogu are also thought to be related to certain belief systems. The wild boar occupies a large place in their prehistoric bestiary due to its importance in daily life and survival. Even everyday objects such as pottery for cooking and food storage, axes, wicker baskets or hooks have a striking beauty beyond their functional use.

Equally surprising are the lacquered vessels presented in the last section: it is hard to believe that the use of lacquer dates back to such a remote a time.

Location: Maison de la culture du Japan a Paris, 101 bis, quai Branly, 75015 Paris

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Event: Textiles that talk – East African Kangas and their meanings

Kanga by Kawira Mwirichia in support of the LGBT community. Translation: “This world is not strong enough to stand my colours”.

Event date: Saturday 8 December 2018, 11:00 to 12:00

Kangas are printed cotton fabrics worn by women in East Africa since the 18th century. Kangas are characterised by a distinctive three-element design: a decorative border; a central panel with recurring motifs; and an inscription. The designs embrace motifs from a global range of decorative traditions, with inscriptions including traditional Swahili proverbs, political slogans, and public information messages.

In this talk, John Ryle discusses kangas and the online archive Textiles That Talk: an open-access collection of high resolution images and metadata—a live catalogue raisonée of kangas. Textiles that Talk  can be explored here. It’s a fascinating archive and well worth a look at the excellent images.

Kanga by Mama Art. Translation: “Obama the choice of God”

John Ryle is Legrand Ramsey Professor of Anthropology at Bard College, New York. He is cofounder of the Rift Valley Institute, a research and public information organisation working in Eastern and Central Africa since 2001, and was Executive Director of the Institute until 2017.

Location: The Fowler Museum at UCLA, 308 Charles E Young Dr N, Los Angeles

 

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Event: Indian Tents – Matters of Silk and Velvet

Event date: Wednesday 5 December 2018 19:00

This Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) talk is by Dr Peter Andrews, the acknowledged expert on tents.

From the time of the Delhi Sultanate, if not earlier, the tents used by Indian rulers were a matter of great prestige, as representing their presence before the public. They were used at court to shelter not only the sovereign, but those attending him in huge numbers, and palace buildings were planned ab initio for extension with tentage over the courtyards. The increasing size of royal domains, too, made it essential, in an age of poor communications, for the ruler to tour them extensively, and the camp acquired an additional purpose, besides the obvious military one, of a temporary palace from which justice could be administered.

Peter Andrews, M.A. (Cantab), Ph.D. (Lond) wrote his Ph.D thesis for SOAS (London) on the history of tents in the Middle East, Hindustan and Central Asia. He first studied architecture in India in 1960. From 1966 he conducted extensive fieldwork on nomad tents in Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Qatar, Mongolia and Qirgizstan, and on urban tents in museums throughout Europe and India, besides surveying a village in Northern Areas, Pakistan. In 2006 he was made an honorary research fellow at the University of Bristol (Anthropology).

For more information visit the ORTS website

Location: St James Piccadilly Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL

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Event: Wax Print – 1 Fabric, 4 Continents, 200 Years of History

Event date: Monday 3 December 2018 16:30 – 19:00

From the villages of Indonesia to the cotton fields of America, from European industrial mills to the bustling markets and sewing schools of West Africa, this film tells the story of one fabric and how it came to symbolise a continent, it’s people and their struggle for freedom.

In African homes across the world a benign textile lies unassuming and taken for granted. With a multitude of names from ‘Dutch Wax’ to ‘Liputa’ and ‘Kitenge’ to ‘Ankara’ this textile has become an important part of African cultures across the diaspora. A symbol of strength and identity in the face of oppression.

Surprised to learn from her Nigerian grandmother that ‘traditional’ African wax printed fabrics were a colonial invention made in the UK and Holland, British-born filmmaker and fashion designer, Aiwan Obinyan, sets out on a journey across four continents to trace the two-hundred year history of this iconic textile that has come to visually represent Africa and Africans.

The Industrial Revolution. Cotton is king. Mills across Europe spin and weave cotton sourced from North America. Colonialism leads to the discovery of batik in Indonesia. Dutch and English traders copy the designs and industrial innovators mechanise the process leading to the creation of Wax Prints. In the scramble for Africa, Wax prints are brought on merchant ships and sold by missionary trading companies in the bustling markets and village squares of West Africa. Local women are economically and politically empowered by this new import. Business is booming for all. But at what cost?

Following the film there will be a Q and A session with it’s director Aiwan Obinyan.

For more information and registration for this free event click here

Location: Clothworkers North Building LT Cinema (2.31), School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT

Exhibition: The Palestinian History Tapestry

Exhibition dates: Friday 30 November 2018 14:00 – 16:30 and Saturday 1 December 2018 09:00 – 17:00

The Palestinian History Tapestry illustrates the history of the Land of Palestine, from the Neolithic era to the present. It has been made by Palestinian women within and outside Palestine, many of them in refugee camps across the Middle East . The Palestinian History Tapestry is an expression of ‘sumud’ (steadfastness) and solidarity. It draws attention to the history and heritage of the Palestinian people and their land, and to their internationally confirmed right to return to the homes from which they were expelled in 1948. The Tapestry is probably the largest embroidered collection of illustrative work ever produced by Palestinian embroiderers. In addition to over 30 cross-stitched panels, embroidered historical dresses and Handala cartoons by Naji al-Ali (probably the best-known cartoonist in the Arab world) will also be on display.

Please note – A seminar will also take place on Friday evening at 17:00, with a distinguished panel. Unfortunately registration for this has already closed but apparently there may be some spaces on the day. See here for further details.
Venue:
Investcorp Auditorium, Middle East Centre, St Antony’s College, Oxford

The exhibition is free of charge and open to the general public.

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Exhibition: Inca Dress Code – Textiles and Adornments of the Andes

Exhibition dates: 23 November 2018 – 24 March 2019

The Americas collections of the Royal Museum of Art and History, Brussels are among the finest and most extensive in Europe.  Although the various Andean cultures (Peru, Bolivia and Chile) are well-known mainly for their ceramics, their precious metalwork, and their mummies, the public does not have a clear picture of how these people lived and dressed.  Textiles were particularly valued because they were considered an extremely precious commodity: they were not only items for wearing, but also symbols of power and identity and could be used as offerings or as a currency of exchange.

This exhibition offers the opportunity to admire the magnificence of the textiles, the quality of the precious metalwork and the beauty of pre-Colombian feather work.  Visitors will also discover the mastery of the art of weaving, the sophistication of the motifs, and the varied and still vibrant colours of the fibres and feathers.  Through the discovery of their wardrobe (shoes, clothes, head dresses and jewellery) visitors will share in the daily life of these people from the past and admire exceptionally high quality, vividly coloured items as well as impressive precious metalwork.

For more information visit the website of the Royal Museum of Art & History

Location: Art & History Museum, Parc of the Cinquantenaire 10, 1000 Brussels

 

 

News: Asian Textiles 71

Asian Textiles is the Journal of the Oxford Asian Textile Group and is published three times a year. The latest edition, number 71, has just been sent out to members. Regular features include a detailed book review, the “My favourite…” feature (this time by Sheila Paine), an exhibition review and a mystery object. Articles in this particular issue are on subjects as diverse as a Palestinian thōb (Abigael Flack), Chinese imperial court costume (David Rosier) and Finnish ryijy (Gavin Strachan).

Members of the Oxford Asian Textile Group automatically receive a hard copy of this full colour Journal. They are also provided with a password, enabling them to access the current calendar year’s editions of Asian Textiles plus those of the previous two complete years. Non-members can access older editions (at the moment up to the end of 2015) via the OATG website here

Asian Textiles is just one of the benefits available to members as we also have a programme of talks, events and visits. Although these are generally held in the UK, we do have many overseas members. If you are not yet a member, go to the Membership section of the website and join up NOW!

 

 

 

Exhibition: Costume and Custom – Middle Eastern Threads at Olana

Exhibition dates: 17 June – 25 November 2018

This exhibition in the former home of the American artist Frederic Church (1826-190) will highlight for the first time the historic costumes Church collected during his 1867-68 journey to Beirut, Damascus, Jerusalem, Petra and other Middle Eastern cities. They will be displayed within the historic rooms of Olana’s main house, whose design was inspired by Churches’ Middle Eastern travels, and Olana’s Sharp Family Gallery will present new research on the collection and its relationship to Church’s work and that of his contemporaries, including Church’s friend and guest at Olana, Mark Twain.

The exhibition will reunite Church’s historic costume collection with both Church’s artwork that it helped to inspire and inform, and the rich interiors of his home that he filled with objects and decorative details inspired by his Middle Eastern travels. In one extraordinary case these are one and the same. Within Isabel Church’s Sitting Room hangs Church’s master work “El Khasné, Petra” (1874), whose foreground features figures clothed in the costume pieces Church brought back to his studio, and which inspired the decoration of the room, especially the decorative painted pseudo-Arabic inscriptions that run throughout the space.

The wide array of historic costumes, often intricately embroidered, reflects the extraordinary craft and creativity of the Middle Eastern people who created it and speaks as well to the evolution of ideas of gender and cultural identity in the Middle East and beyond. A publication developed in conjunction with this exhibition will include essays by costume historian Lynne Bassett and Palestinian costume expert Hanan Karaman Munayyer on the people who originally wore the clothing collected by Church and on the artist’s use of the historic costume in his home and art.

For more information visit the Olana website.

Location: Olana State Historic Site, 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY 12534