Article: Iranian nomads, and ORTS event in London tonight

A nomadic family during their migration. © Newsha Tavakolian

Why Iran’s nomads are fading away, with text by Thomas Erdbrink and wonderful photographs by Newsha Tavakolian, is a very thought-provoking article on the difficulties faced by Iranian nomads.

There are over a million nomads in Iran, and for many years they have followed a traditional lifestyle which involved moving their animals along ancient routes to cool pastures in the Zagreb mountains every spring. Now many transport their belongings on trucks instead of horseback. The number of black tents being set up in the pastures is dwindling year on year as young people sell off their flocks and move to the towns. One of the main reasons for this change seems to be the desire for education. As one woman put it “I won’t let my daughters marry a nomad,” she said. “Our lifestyle is horrible. I want them to live in a city and study.” Do click through the slideshow near the beginning of the article for extra images and information.

Reading this brings to mind the famous film Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life made about the Bakhtiari migration in 1925. The numbers of people involved in that migration in contrast to the situation today is stark. Fifty thousand people, led by Haidar Khan, made this trek which lasted for 48 days and involved crossing an icy river on inflated goat skins. Seeing them climb the snowy mountains – in one case with a man carrying a donkey on his back – makes you realise just how desperate these people were to reach the life-sustaining grass on the other side. This really is a truly remarkable film, a ten-minute excerpt of which can be viewed here and is highly recommended.

Last year the Metropolitan Museum in New York held an exhibition entitled Portable Storage: Tribal Weavings from the Collection of William and Inger Ginsberg, which I blogged about here.

Spindle bag. Gift of Inger G. and William B. Ginsberg, 2015. © Metropolitan Museum.

More information on the various tribes, as well as their weavings can be found on the website of the Metropolitan Museum here.

Khamseh bird rug. © Paul R Benjamin

Tonight – Wednesday 20 February 2019 Professor Paul R Benjamin is giving a talk on South Persian Rugs, Bags and Saddle Covers to the Oriental Rug and Textile Society of Great Britain (ORTS). Professor Benjamin’s subjects  will include Qashqa’i Shekarlu rugs and Khamseh saddle covers . This talk in Piccadilly, London, is also open to non-members. Click here for further details.

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Event: International Convention of Asia Scholars (and more) in Leiden

This July a series of textile-related events will take place in Leiden, the Netherlands.

The 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars runs from 16-19 July 2019. Participants from over 60 countries, covering a multitude of disciplines, are expected to attend. Registration details for ICAS can be found here. Please note there is a significant discount for early registration and this ends on 15 March 2019.

As part of this Convention the Tracing Patterns Foundation are organising several Textile Panels around the subject Fibre, Loom and technique. Fifteen researchers will present their findings on a variety of subjects. These include our founder Ruth Barnes on Early Weft Ikats found in Sumatran Textiles and OATG member Chris Buckley on The Origin of Chinese Drawlooms. Itie van Hout, whose book on Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum was recently reviewed in Asian Textiles will speak about Twill Weaving in Kalimantan and Sandra Niessen will give a presentation on the Bulang of the Batak people – which Pamela Cross spoke of with such passion at our recent Show and Tell.

Although several of the talks are on Indonesian textiles, other areas covered include the Philippines, Egypt, Laos, China, India and Africa.

From 13-19 July the Textile Research Centre (also in Leiden) is organising a special Asia Week on the theme of East-West connections. This will include an exhibition, workshops and lectures. The exhibition, entitled Out of Asia: 2000 years of fascination with Eastern textiles, aims to show “how economics and trade have played an essential role in the movement and use of textiles” and will present a range of textiles, from Indian block-printed textiles from the thirteenth century to regional Dutch textiles from the early twentieth century.

Back of a woman’s blouse from the Dutch island of Marken, with a panel with a chintz-style decoration with peacocks and buteh, 1937. © Textile Research Centre

The workshops will include Indigo Printing and Dyeing with Georg Stark (read my earlier blog on him here), Analysing Ancient Textile Fragments with Affordable Equipment, and Embroidery from Afghanistan.

Full details of the talks and workshops, along with registration details, can be found here – please note spaces are limited.

Obviously a visit to Leiden would not be complete without spending time in the Museum Volkenkunde, where you are greeted by a huge totem pole as you enter the museum. Its collection is vast and it seeks to convey through universal themes that “despite cultural differences, we are all essentially the same”.

Part of the Indonesia Gallery display at the Museum Volkenkunde

A short train ride (around 40 minutes) will take you to Amsterdam where you can visit the Tropenmuseum.

It’s easy to travel to Leiden from many parts of the UK – just fly to Amsterdam (Schipol) and get the train from there (15 minutes), or take the Eurostar to Amsterdam. See you in Leiden!

 

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News: Hali & Cornucopia Ancient and Modern International Research Award

A research award of £1000 is being sponsored by Hali and Cornucopia. This award for original research was initiated by John Carswell after he realised that there were two groups of people who often found it difficult to get grants – those at the beginning of their career and those who are rather more mature in years. For this reason the award is open to candidates from around the globe who are aged under 27 or over 60 at the time of application. The subject matter should fall within the scope of Hali and Cornucopia, which is of course very wide.  Hali covers textiles of every type and all cultures, while Cornucopia specialises in Turkic and Ottoman culture.

It is easy to apply, with no references needed, simply a statement of your age and a brief summary of your project (no more than 500 words), with an emphasis that it would be difficult for you to find funding for the project from any other source.

It’s well worth taking a look at the list of previous winners. The range of subjects they covered is extraordinary and includes:-

Field Study of Fourteenth-Century Underglaze Decorated- Ceramics in Yunnan, South China,

an Inventory of early Anatolian kilims surviving in Ethiopian Orthodox churches,

Research on the tent of Tipu Sultan (1750–99) at Powis Castle and the Tienda de Campana (1535) in Toledo,

and Following Gertrude Bell’s pre-First World War travels around Turkey.

Full details of how to apply can be found here.

Please note that the closing date for applications is 31 March 2019.

 

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Feature: Bronze Drums and their Motifs

© David Richardson

Dong-son drums and the motifs found on them have fascinated several OATG members. Chris Buckley has conducted a phylogenetic analysis of warp-ikat motifs, including a comparison of the geometric figures found on mainland and island Southeast Asia textiles with those found on Dong-son drums. He found little or no overlap. In particular, the hook and rhomb motifs characteristic of Southeast Asian weaving that are often claimed to be Dong-son were not identified on Dong-son bronzes.

For further information on the spurious link to the Dong-son culture see the work of OATG members David and Sue Richardson here. They show the differences between the sophisticated motifs found on the Heger type-1 Dong-son drums found in Eastern Indonesia and the anthropomorphic figures found in local weavings. They have also written on the anthropomorphic figures found on moko drums here.

Being welcomed to a village on Alor by Mama Agus Fanmalai of Suku Marang. The function of this clan is to connect the people with their ancestors. © David Richardson.

Hourglass-shaped bronze drums called mokos are still in use today on the island of Alor in the Indonesian archipelago for ritual celebrations and as part of the marriage exchange. Ownership of certain types of moko conveys social status. The majority of them probably came from north-east Java. In 1916 the government conducted a registration of the mokos on Alor and at that time they numbered over two thousand. This number is probably conservative as many people would have hidden their mokos to avoid registering them.

They are also occasionally found on sale in the local market. These drums come in a variety of different sizes and were probably brought to Alor by Makassarese and Chinese merchants. In the past they were used as  a medium of exchange – just like a currency.

A moko drum for sale on the bazaar. © David Richardson

Indeed the provincial museum in Kalabahi, the capital of Alor is called the Museum of a Thousand Moko – however we have never counted to see if there really are 1000! This museum also has a fine display of textiles, including some made of barkcloth, and weaving equipment. Their collection of baskets is also strong, and ceramics include a VOC plate.  

Leaflet from the excellent Museum of 1000 Moko

On Wednesday 20 February 2019 at 17:15 Anna Karlström, a researcher in heritage studies at the department of art history/conservation, Uppsala University Campus Gotland, will give a seminar on bronze drums at SOAS, London. Below is the information on this seminar, provided by the SOAS website.

“Bronze drums were produced and used within animist traditions, in a pre-Buddhist era almost three thousand years ago. Dong Son culture, bronze age, early civilisation and sophisticated art production are concepts that most scholars within Southeast Asian archaeology and art history immediately think of when bronze drums enter the academic discussion. The drums have been, and still are, examined primarily as prehistoric artefacts or pieces of art and categorised according to established typologies. Archaeologists and art historians are looking into distribution patterns of the drums through which trade, exchange and cultural contacts can be traced, as well as production methods, techniques and iconography. Little attention has been given the fact that these artefacts constitute a living heritage, and that they are still being produced and used in various ways for different purposes all over Southeast Asia. In some contexts the drums are still parts of animist traditions, in others they have been incorporated into Buddhist traditions and religious practices, linked to cultural heritage politics, identity and nationalism. In this presentation, the transformation of bronze drums as heritage is examined through a case study from Vietnam, but also related to other examples from mainland Southeast Asia.”

This event is free, but registration is required.

Location: SOAS Russell Square: College Buildings Room 4429

 

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Exhibition: Traded Treasures – Indian Textiles for Global Markets

Exhibition dates: 26 January – 9 June 2019

13th or 14th century cloth from Gujarat, made for the eastern Indonesian market

This recently opened exhibition at the Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, showcase the collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.

“Known for many centuries as the source of fine cotton and silk textiles, India has produced some of the world’s most innovative textile traditions. Spanning five hundred years of the history of India’s thriving commerce to Southeast Asia, Europe, and Japan, this exhibition reveals why Indian textiles were in demand the world over.

Some of the earliest surviving Indian textiles are printed and painted cotton fragments found in Indonesia. Along with silk double-ikat patola, these were used for ceremonial purposes and treasured in Indonesia as heirlooms. The maritime trade that relied on supplying Indian textiles to Southeast Asian markets in exchange for spices was first conducted by Arab, Persian, and Indian merchants but later dominated by Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders, which expanded the demand for Indian chintz and embroideries in Asia and Europe.

The textiles presented in this exhibition…….. tell a fascinating story of global commerce and the ingenious ways that Indian artisans designed and produced goods of astonishing beauty and technical sophistication, while also revealing how cross-cultural interchange contributed to global aesthetic developments.”

A fully illustrated catalogue on the history of the Indian textile trade, is due out in March 2019 and will have contributions by many leading experts, including our founder Ruth Barnes, Kaja McGowan, and Sylvia Houghteling.

Location: Bartels Gallery, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 114 Central Avenue, Ithaca, NY.

 

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Event: OATG Show and Tell – Corrected Version

Several members have kindly informed me of a couple of errors in my original blog about this event. I wrongly referred to Jen Gurd as Helen Wolfe and to Judith Gussin as Judith Condor-Vidal – my apologies to all concerned. This is the corrected version with a bonus photo! These images can also be viewed in a much larger format on our Facebook page here

Following our recent AGM, many members brought some fantastic textiles for the Show and Tell session. It was great to see such enthusiasm and the sharing of knowledge as we had a few “mystery” textiles. Here are just a few photographs to whet your appetite for the full report which will be in the summer issue of Asian Textiles.

Jen Gurd showed us a lovely thangka – very apt as Karen Horton will be giving us a talk on the conservation of thangkas on Thursday 21 March.

Sheila Allen holding an exquisite little bag from Uzbekistan brought by Sue Morley

As well as compering the event, Pamela Cross showed us this very special textile from Sumatra – a headcloth woven by a weaver who was trying to remember long-forgotten skills. The weaver made two of these textiles for an exhibition at the China National Silk Museum last year and is shown in the photograph Pamela is holding.

David Richardson brought a magnificent example of double ikat, featuring tigers and elephants. This was made in India for the Royal families of Java and Bali and had wonderful rich colours.

The Indonesian theme continued with this spectacular batik belanda from the collection of Lesley and Diccon Pullen, which featured European ships.

Also from Indonesia we had this sarong brekke from the island of Flores, brought by Chris Buckley. This would have been worn by the village headman during certain ceremonies.

 

Another lovely piece from the collection of Judith Gussin, this time from an artisan’s village near Bhuj in India.

Marion Maule in full flow, explaining the rituals Japanese have regarding needles.

Carolyn Gurney regaled us with the tale of how she rescued this lovely front of a Baluch child’s dress from a skip!

Sue Morley, Helen Wolfe and Leah Offer were clearly enjoying themselves!

Sue Morley and Eiko Cunningham examining some of the textiles brought by Carolyn Gurney

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Event: OATG Show and Tell

Following our recent AGM, many members brought some fantastic textiles for the Show and Tell session. It was great to see such enthusiasm and the sharing of knowledge as we had a few “mystery” textiles. Here are just a few photographs to whet your appetite for the full report which will be in the summer issue of Asian Textiles.

Jen Gurd showed us a lovely thangka – very apt as Karen Horton will be giving us a talk on the conservation of thangkas on Thursday 21 March.

As well as compering the event, Pamela Cross showed us this very special textile from Sumatra – a headcloth woven by a weaver who was trying to remember long-forgotten skills. The weaver made two of these textiles for an exhibition at the China National Silk Museum last year and is shown in the photograph Pamela is holding.

David Richardson brought a magnificent example of double ikat, featuring tigers and elephants. This was made in India for the Royal families of Java and Bali and had wonderful rich colours.

The Indonesian theme continued with this spectacular batik belanda from the collection of Lesley and Diccon Pullen, which featured European ships.

Also from Indonesia we had this sarong brekke from the island of Flores, brought by Chris Buckley. This would have been worn by the village headman during certain ceremonies.

 

Another lovely piece from the collection of Judith Gussin, this time from an artisan’s village near Bhuj in India.

Marion Maule in full flow, explaining the rituals Japanese have regarding needles.

Carolyn Gurney regaled us with the tale of how she rescued this lovely front of a Baluch child’s dress from a skip!

Sue Morley, Helen Wolfe and Leah Offer were clearly enjoying themselves!

Sue Morley and Eiko Cunningham examining some of the textiles brought by Carolyn Gurney

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Event: Textile events in San Francisco

Event dates: 7-10 February 2019

San Francisco is the place to be for textile lovers this weekend!

First there is the 33rd annual San Francisco Tribal & Textile Art Show – the biggest and best of its kind in North America. It showcases art from Tribal Africa, Asia, Australia, Oceania and the Americas, so there is sure to be something to appeal to every taste. This takes place at the Fort Mason Center and more information can be found on their website.

During the Show there will be two special exhibitions. The first is devoted to Fiji and is entitled “Fiji – Art and Life in the Pacific“. This will preview several pieces of Fijian art which will feature in a major exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the autumn. Click here for full details, and images of some of these extraordinary works of art.

Salei Maasai Warriors with Kanga Flags, Tanzania. Copyright Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher

The second special exhibition is from a very different part of the world – Africa. Entitled “African Twilight: Vanishing Rituals & Ceremonies”  this exhibition of the stunning photography of Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher celebrates the artistry, diversity, and creativity of the continent. More information on the exhibit and talks by the photographers can be found here.

On Saturday 9 February at 15:30 Thomas Murray will be giving a lecture and signing copies of his new bookTextiles of Japan“, recently published by Prestel. This richly illustrated book on the Thomas Murray collection is divided into three main sections: Ainu, Mingei and Okinawa. The collection is very strong in Ainu, including examples from Siberia. Garments made from salmon skin, wild banana, elm bark and nettle fibre all feature in this amazing collection. More details here.

A weaver in Bubu village, Solor, Indonesia, weaving warp ikat cloth for a tubeskirt. Copyright Chris Buckley

Also on Saturday 9 February at 10:00 OATG member Chris Buckley will give an illustrated talk on the migration of Austronesians from mainland Asia via Taiwan and across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This will be held in the de Young museum, Golden Gate Park. Chris will present evidence to support his belief that characteristic Austronesian weaving techniques seem to have come directly from the Asian mainland and not Taiwan. See my earlier blog for more details and a link to a fascinating paper on this subject by Chris Buckley and Eric Boudot.

Fragment (flower carpet), 2nd half of the 17th century. Caucasus, Azerbaijan. © Museum für Islamische Kunst der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin. Photograph by Johannes Kramer

Later the same day the de Young museum will also be the venue for another lecture, this time by Anna Beselin, on the subject of “Knots, Art, and History: Shifting Perspectives and Perceptions within the Berlin Carpet Collection”. According to the website of the de Young museum “The carpet collection at the Museum für Islamische Kunst (Museum of Islamic Art), Berlin, is one of the oldest and most important such collections in Europe. For decades, the unique examples in these holdings were a major attraction for carpet lovers worldwide. But how can we ensure that interest in this art form continues among general audiences as well as the next generation of collectors? The Berlin museum faces this challenge and opportunity to communicate new understandings about individual pieces and offer new approaches to a diverse audience. Aiming to reach a wider public uninitiated to the particular appeal of important carpets, this talk will introduce you to a fascinating variety of individual histories within the collection’s highlights.” Click here for more details.

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Article: Kisar Textiles

OATG members David and Sue Richardson are passionate about Indonesian textiles and recently have been researching the weavings of the small island of Kisar in the Lesser Sundas, to the east of Bali. As part of this research, last year they corresponded with Sonja Mohr, the curator for Insular Southeast Asia at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World in Köln, about the museum’s collection of Kisar textiles. These were collected by Heinrich Kühn in 1888, Professor Alexander W. Pflüger in 1900 and Wilhelm Müller-Wismar in 1914. Sonja very kindly invited them to Köln to examine these textiles for themselves. The information gained during that visit, along with field research, has resulted in the publication of the final page on Kisar textiles on their website Asian Textile Studies. Below is their report of their trip to the museum.

Most of the visitors heading to Köln in December are there to see the Christmas markets, but we had a different objective in mind – textiles – and not just any old textiles, but textiles with excellent provenance collected on Kisar in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Textile heaven! A fantastic selection of Kisar textiles ready for us to examine.

We had corresponded with Sonja Mohr for several months and she and her colleague, Senior Conservationist Petra Czerwinske-Eger, had gone to great lengths to prepare for our visit. Christian Andert, the chief storekeeper, had brought the Kisar textiles from the main storage area to one of the laboratories so that we could all examine them in detail. All of the information they held on each piece had been printed out, along with questions it was hoped we might be able to answer together.

We started by looking at the sarongs, which had been prepared for us. These were more varied than expected, with some, such as the one below, having very little ikat but lovely rich deep colours.

A simple Oirata lau which might date to the late nineteenth century.

We then looked at the ceremonial sarongs, from both the Oirata and Meher communities and discovered that one Oirata tubeskirt had been mislabelled as Meher.

An Oirata mauwesi lau which had been mislabelled as a Meher homnon.

We then moved onto examining the male loincloths and it was again interesting to first see some very simple examples.

Sonja and David looking at a man’s simple loincloth.

The ceremonial loincloths collected in 1914 were just stunning – woven from fine hand-spun cotton with narrow bands of ikat and end sections of continuous supplementary weft.

A fantastic niala or irä from Oirata, which led to much discussion.

One of the unexpected highlights for us was the collection of waistbands, which really were little gems.

Analysing waistbands collected by Müller-Wismar in 1914.

We discovered silk threads had been used in some narrow warp stripes and the twinned end band of one of these.

Sue and Sonja discussing more waistbands collected by Müller-Wismar.

After two lengthy sessions we left the museum with a huge sense of satisfaction with our goal achieved, and looking forward to working together with Sonja, Petra and the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World in the future.

If you would like to read more about these textiles, along with many detailed photographs, please visit the Kisar page of our Asian Textile Studies website.

 

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Article: Recreating Ancient Brocade to Preserve History

Photo of the loom and cloth from the Shanghai Daily

In 1995 a small (18.5cm by 12.5cm) piece of brocade was excavated from a tomb in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region. Woven in red, yellow, blue, white and green silk the motifs on it included the phoenix and the tiger as well as various heavenly bodies. This textile fragment was produced 2000 years ago. The sophistication of it doesn’t surprise me, having already seen Chinese textiles of a similar age as part of the Living in Silk exhibition at Nottingham Castle when they were exhibited in the UK for the first time in 2012.

In this Shanghai Daily article the author, Shi Jia, explains  some of the symbolism found on this textile and the lengths that Zhao Feng, the director of the China National Silk Museum, and his team went to in order to reproduce it. First they had to build a loom with which to weave the cloth. They decided to reproduce a hook-shaft pattern loom which had been found in a Han Dynasty tomb. The cloth took over a year to weave. It has an astounding 10,000 warps and was woven on 86 shafts – so much room for error! The description of how they got around the need for dozens of treadles fascinated me.

According to Zhao Feng the next goal is to reproduce the natural dyes that were used to colour the original fabric so that it can once again be seen as it would have so many years ago.

The full article can be read here

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